Renovated Kentucky Theatre's future is bright (literally)

rcopley@herald-leader.comMay 20, 2014 

Movie theaters, Harold Tate points out, usually aren't lit up as brightly as the Kentucky Theatre was Tuesday morning, "because you really don't want to see them that well."

Too often, a petrified blend of sugary soda and popcorn greets the soles of movie patrons at cinemas across the country. That sticky substance you just touched under the arm rest is probably best left to the dark.

But these days, the Kentucky holds up as well under the bright lights as Scarlett Johansson in a closeup. Or George Clooney.

On Wednesday night, Clooney's parents, Nick and Nina Clooney, will host a sold-out screening of the 1958 classic South Pacific at the grand reopening of the Kentucky, which closed in mid-February for a nearly $1 million renovation.

The theater actually reopened in late April, but project managers said there was still some work to be done.

Now Tate, the project manager, and others involved with the renovation are ready to declare this phase of the renovation done (though the theater still has a to-do list).

Among things patrons will notice Wednesday night are:

New seats: There are 802 of them. Many of the theater's old seats ranged in condition from creaky to unusable. The new chairs come with cup holders and on the armrests the names of donors who paid $500 each.

Names include many state and local politicians and celebrities such as Kentucky-born actor Harry Dean Stanton. There are also some names of notables who probably did not buy the seats themselves, including Boris and Natasha of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. (Seat sponsorships are still available for $500 a pop through

New lighting: Throughout the theater, new LED lighting has been put in. Tate says it should last a long time, save money and, as we have said, shine a lot brighter.

The lighting extends to the chandeliers in the foyer, but not as far as the marquee. Tate says LEDs were tried in the marquee but deemed ineffective. The marquee is still undergoing renovation and will be outfitted with new lighting and letters in coming months.

Also, there is new stage lighting inside the theater for concerts and events, and there is new track lighting to direct people out of the theater in the event of an emergency.

New hearing assistance: Patrons might note seams running through the concrete floor under which lie telecoil, or T loop, wires that in many cases will broadcast sound directly to hearing aids.

A TV in the lobby: A new high-definition flat-screen TV in the lobby will feature previews of upcoming films and the names of major donors to the renovation project. Probably most important, they will show University of Kentucky basketball games when they are being broadcast at the theater, so concession stand patrons don't have to miss any of the action.

The concession stand is still on the to-do list. It has been outfitted with new LED lighting, Tate said, but the entire stand will be replaced early next year.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog:

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