UPDATE: Kentucky Theatre hopes to reopen in new year

A second 'Posters and Popcorn' fundraiser is set for Saturday, December 4 at the venue

UPDATE 11:00 P.M. NOV. 30, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington has been a staple in the community since 1922. In its past, it’s overcome many obstacles including management changes, a fire and most recently, a global pandemic.

“The Kentucky Theatre is a phoenix that always rises from the ashes and we know it’s going to reopen again,” says Hayward Wilkirson, co-chair of the Friends of the Kentucky Theatre. “It just may not be quite as soon as we had hoped.”

After closing in October 2020 when people stopped going to the movies due to the pandemic, it was hoped the theatre would reopen December 1st, but then came the chip shortage and supply chain issues kept needed equipment from coming in and it was learned the projectors needed to be updated.

“We are working to get them but because of COVID there are delays in the supply chain. So, we don’t know how long it will take us,” says Wilkirson.

The Kentucky is hopeful the problems will be resolved by the new year so it can re-open in January.

“It is giving us a little bit more, an opportunity to fundraise, which we need to do,” says Fred Mills, manager of The Kentucky and Mr. Kentucky Theatre.

The theatre held a “Posters and Popcorn” fundraiser on November 20th, which raised $13,000 in 4 hours. Because of the success of the first one, “Posters and Popcorn” the sequel will be held Saturday, December 4th from 10 A.M. until 2 P.M.

“I’ve never worked as hard on anything in my life as we’re doing now to reopen the theatre,” says Wilkirson. “We’ve set a goal of around $100,000 to reopen.”

The Kentucky says it is doing everything it can to reopen as soon as possible but asks patrons to be patient.

“We’ll get there,” says Mills. “May be a little bit slower than everybody wanted, but we’ll get there.”

Friends of the Kentucky Theatre says while an official reopening is a ways off, there may be some holiday showing surprises around the corner. Keep an eye on its Facebook page HERE for any events and fundraisers in the future.

Update from November 30, 2021:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The hoped for Dec. 1, 2021 reopening of the historic Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington has been postponed indefinitely.

Friends of the Kentucky Theatre, which has taken over management of the venue, says the ongoing chip shortage and supply chain issues led to the delay.

The group’s co-chair, Lisa Meeks, says much needed equipment has been delayed and the projectors need to be updated.

No reopen date has been set.  In the meantime, the friends group continues to raise money in order to reopen.  A second ‘Posters and Popcorn Sale’ is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 at the theatre from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

The first sale of its kind on Nov. 20, 2021, was a huge success, raising $13,000 in four hours.

Friends of the Kentucky Theatre says there are still a lot of great movie posters available and other merchandise.

Organizers say people planning to attend the fundraiser should consider potential parking challenges downtown because of the city’s Christmas Parade down Main Street, which is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m.

To learn more about the fundraiser and ongoing efforts to reopen the theatre, click here.


Original story below from September 24, 2021:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton recommended Friday the management contract for the Kentucky Theatre be awarded to the Friends of the Kentucky Theatre.

“The Friends have some exciting new plans for the theatre, and they are also keeping the fan favorites in place,” Gorton said. “It’s a new era for Main Street’s grand old lady, as she prepares to start a year that will mark her second Century.”

The theatre opened in October 1922.

Friends Board members said they are humbled and excited about taking on the management of the historic Kentucky Theatre.

“We’re thrilled about the opportunity to manage this beautiful and beloved theater in the heart of Lexington,” said Lisa Meek, Friends co-chair. “The task ahead is a big one, and it’s made more complicated by the recent surge in COVID cases. We don’t have a precise reopening date, but we are committed to opening the Kentucky as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.”

“This new partnership between longtime advocates of the theatre and the City will once again open the doors of this beautiful and historically important building to the public for films, concerts, gallery openings, and private events,” said Councilmember Hannah LeGris. “Along with its companion theater, the State, the Kentucky is an institution in the arts community not only in downtown Lexington, but throughout the Commonwealth. Over the last 99 years, the Theatre has hosted world premieres, celebrity performances, LGBTQ+ events, and countless live shows. I look forward to this new chapter in the story of the Kentucky Theatre and wish them another 100 years of success as Lexington’s premiere historic theater.”

The Urban County Council is expected to take an initial vote on the management contract on Thursday. The awarding of the contract is contingent on Council approval.

For the last four years, the Friends have studied the best practices at art-house cinemas around the country.

The Friends visited some of the best of these cinemas and consulted with art-house cinema directors and industry consultants with the goal of ensuring that the Kentucky continues to thrive as a center for film excellence.

Meek said the Friends “intend to continue the best traditions of the Kentucky Theatre while introducing new programs and initiatives that will make the Kentucky an even more dynamic and vital venue as it enters its second century.”

Friends co-chair Hayward Wilkirson said, “Fred Mills – a.k.a Mr. Kentucky – will continue to serve as the theater’s general manager,” and that “much-loved programs like the Summer Classics movie series, the Rosa Goddard Film Festival, and midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show will continue as staples of the Kentucky Theatre.”

Some of the new initiatives include switching to a non-profit management structure, implementing a membership program, increasing repertory film programming, introducing more film festivals, and reviving musical programming.

The vast majority of art-houses nationwide are non-profit organizations.

Nonprofit status is essential for fundraising efforts, since donations to a nonprofit are tax exempt.

Membership programs are also a common feature at art-houses across the U.S. and offer members perks like discounted movie tickets and concessions and member-only events in return for a monthly fee.

Vice Mayor Isabel Yates formed the Friends of the Kentucky Theatre in 2012 as a nonprofit organization to restore, preserve, and enhance Lexington’s only historic, independent cinema.

Since its founding, the members have raised nearly $1 million to pay for essential improvements at The Kentucky, including digital projectors, modern sound systems, new seating and carpeting, rewiring, and marquee repairs. Without the work of the Friends, the Kentucky Theatre would not exist.

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