The show goes on: The Appalachian Theatre set to open in October

Cameron Stuart, News Reporter

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The Appalachian Theatre is opening its doors and lighting up downtown Boone in October with promises of uniting the community with varying cultural events.

“It’s been a dream since 2007, when the theater closed, to get it reopened,” said Laura Kratt, executive director of the Appalachian Theatre. “It’s been a lively part of the community, the region, and having it closed was a real hardship for the people of Boone.”

The theater closed in 2007 as a movie theater because it was not a financially viable option at the time.

“Historical theaters in downtowns have been at the center point of economic developments for downtowns,” Kratt said. “You have so many businesses that are operating from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The theater does 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., so we’re filling in that gap of economic activity.”

In a study conducted by the Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, local spending by people attending theater events was projected putting $3 million directly into the local economy.

Kratt said cultural tourists, tourists who are drawn to the culture and lifestyles of certain areas, who the theater will bring in, spend twice as much money as other types of tourists.

Keith Martin, professor in the department of theatre and dance, and vice chair of the board of the Appalachian Theatre, said the theater will create 50 full-time jobs and other intangible benefits.

“It’s going to enrich the livability of Boone, quality of life and image for both residents and visitors; it’s going to extend our nightlife,” Martin said.

Martin said the theater will serve as a cornerstone for night and weekend events in the heart of Boone.

Parker Hallman, sophomore theater education major and a member of the board of executives for the Appalachian Musical Theatre Club, said Boone can benefit from having a public performance space that the community can use, apart from bars and coffee shops.

“App Theatre is a great space where hopefully club shows can one day perform on an actual stage where more members of the community will have access,” Hallman said.

It’s going to enrich the livability of Boone, quality of life and image for both residents and visitors; it’s going to extend our nightlife.”

— Keith Martin

The Appalachian Theatre was built in 1938 and operated for 70 years. It is being remodeled after its original design.

Kratt said many historical buildings were lost, so having the opportunity to save and reinvent something to make it culturally relevant today is a real asset.

“We’re not going to go back to the old incandescent bulbs; we’re going to use LEDs. It’s more energy-efficient. It’s more green,” Kratt said. “We’re balancing preservation with practicality.”

People can attend a variety of shows, including concerts, plays, dance events, lectures and film festivals.

“It’s been a long, hard job, but it should be very rewarding. The enthusiasm of the community has just been tremendous,” Kratt said.

Kratt said the theater is on schedule to open in October.

“I feel like there’s a divide between the people who go to school here and the people who live here,” Hallman said. “This is a great place that’s kind of a marker of the town of Boone in conjunction with the university, a place where students and community members can come and enjoy the same things together.”