Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Holly Theater Restoration Project

Last night my wife and I attended the "Grand Facade Relighting Ceremony" which is the first stage of the full restoration of The Holly Theatre in Medford, Oregon.Link to Holly Theatre Restoration Website

The Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) Foundation now owns the building and hopes to have the inside restored in about two years. JPR has previously restored a theater in Redding, California.

The Holly Theatre was opened on August 29th, 1930 with the Technicolor musical "Hold Everything" staring Joe E. Brown. The Holly's last  film was shown on October 30th, 1986. Since then it has been an eyesore in downtown Medford.

The Holly has a lot of memories for our family.

I first attended the Theatre in about 1957 or 1958 to see the movie "Heaven Knows Mr. Allison" staring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr and directed by John Huston. The movie is about a U.S. Marine and a Catholic nun hiding out on a South Pacific island held by the Japanese during World War II. I did not grow up in Medford, but my folks on a Sunday were visiting some  friends in Medford, and I talked them into dropping my sister and I off for a Sunday Matinee while they visited. (See first picture above to what The Holly looked like when I attended in the 1950's through early 1970's)

I next started attending the Holly when I moved to Medford for the summers of 1972 & 1973 to work as a law clerk for a Medford law firm while in law school. I remember one of the first dates with my wife, to be, was to see a double feature of the re-release of "The Graduate" and "Carnal Knowledge" both directed by Mike Nichols.

Right after we were married in the mid 1970's we rented an apartment about two blocks from the Holly and would be first in line each Friday night for the early show.  We are both short and wanted to get our favorite seats at the top of the tunnel leading into the theater auditorium so no one would sit in front of us. In those days there were only four indoor theater screens in Medford and most new movies opened on Friday night. There were no matinee showings during weekdays.I loved walking by the theater to look at the posters to see what the coming attractions were. In those days there were no DVD's, VCR's and no HBO.We got old movies from the  San Francisco bay area stations on cable and  cut up for commercials.

After our children were born our son's first movie was at the Holly to see "Sesame Street Present: Follow that Bird" starring Big Bird.

About this time the Multiplex type theaters came to Medford and the Holly was thought obsolete and closed in 1986 (See second picture for what The Holly looked like when it closed after a "cheap" makeover in the mid to late 1970's.

After it closed, I got to know one of the early owners of the building, and bought four of the old seats for my "movie room" aka "Man Cave." I then went down to the Southern Oregon Historical Society and bought  a picture of the outside (first picture above" and one of the inside for framing and hanging in my movie room at home. I had to restore the seats and scraped years of gum off the bottom of the seats and years of spilled soft drinks. I painted them and re- upholstery them and they look great.

As the pictures above show, JPR, has done an excellent job of restoring the exterior and I have my fingers crossed that they can complete the job. I am not a big fan of Public Radio, but I have to give them a big  "pat on the back" for this project.

Link to Medford Mail Tribune story on last nights ceremony. Look at picture for the guy in the plaid shirt. He must have stolen it from the Richard Dreyfuss character in" American Graffiti" (1973)