Athens' Georgia Theatre reopening after fire

Owner Wilmot Greene (left) and builder Kevin Hobgood carry a sign at the Georgia Theatre.

ATLANTA --- The newly renovated Georgia Theatre begins a series of grand opening concerts today with reminders of a devastating 2009 fire still visible in the charred bricks and the blackened front doors.

Owner Wilmot Greene said workers managed to save some wood that survived the blaze and used it during renovations because it adds to the iconic theater's history.

"We went to great lengths to make sure that the building would be able to tell a story as soon as you walk into the door," he said.

The theater's storied past includes performances by bands such as R.E.M., the B-52s and others that began their rise in Athens.

The fire gutted the building, but American chestnut wood was saved from the office area and used in the new lobby.

The office was the least-burned part of the building because it was near the projection room, which was built like a bunker because it once stored highly-flammable film, Greene said.

The theater will reopen at 8 p.m. today with a performance by The Glands, an Athens band.

Greene said there are plans to raffle off an electric guitar built with wood, stained glass, ticket stubs and other remnants of the blaze. The guitar was built by Robbie Smith of Athens, a University of Georgia junior who owns Black Smith Guitars.

"To me, that was the center of the music scene here in Athens with all the history and everything," Smith said of the theater. "I saw pictures from the fire and saw that it was a complete loss, but there was still enough materials to make a guitar."

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