Athens' Georgia Theatre reopening after fire

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 (left) and builder Kevin Hobgood carry a sign at the Georgia Theatre.   File/Morris News Service
File/Morris News Service
Owner Wilmot Greene (left) and builder Kevin Hobgood carry a sign at the Georgia Theatre.

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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Brad Owens
Brad Owens 08/01/11 - 12:40 pm
Great news, super..

Great news, super..

Emerydan 08/01/11 - 02:48 pm
Here we see a big difference

Here we see a big difference between Athens and Augusta. This theater was practically destroyed just two years ago and here it is reopening, probably better than ever, to carry on its great tradition as an entertainment mecca for Athens, because the people of that community rallied to rebuild (and all from private money). But yet The Miller theater here in Augusta still languishes in limbo, years after hopes were first raised that it might be re-opened. Lets hope the community here in Augusta can rally in support of The Miller like the people of Athens did for The Georgia Theater. We have a true jewel on Broad street, and if you want to know the potential that it has to be an entertainment mecca for downtown, just take a drive to Athens and take a look at The Georgia Theater.

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