It’s easy to walk by the nondescript Broadway Street entrance of the Lexington Opera House and not realize it’s there. There’s no marquee or street-level sign.
Most people think the building’s Short Street entrance is the only one, said Luanne Franklin, director of performing arts for the Lexington Opera House.
It hasn’t always been that way. For decades, the Broadway entrance to the 1886 building had a marquee, which officials now hope to replace.
Photos from the 1920s and 1930s show the marquee, which was likely removed before or during a 1974 renovation that transformed the Opera House from a movie theater back into a live performance venue.
The Opera House is one of only 14 live performance theaters in the country built before 1900 that are still operating.
The Opera House Fund, a nonprofit that supports upkeep of the theater and ongoing programming, has wanted to do something that will increase the theater’s profile, Franklin said.
Currently, the theater uses banners to advertise upcoming shows in the Broadway Live! series, but the Opera House hosts many concerts and local performing arts groups that it does not advertise on the exterior of its building, Franklin said.
Bill Owen, president and CEO of the Lexington Center Corporation, said the group has asked Daktronics, which made Rupp Arena’s new center-hung scoreboard, for some preliminary designs of a marquee.
“From there we can get some cost estimates,” Owen said. The Lexington Center Corp. oversees the Opera House.
With a design and cost estimate, the Opera House Fund will start fundraising or seek grant money for the marquee, Franklin said.
The Lexington Center Corp. recently received its nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service, which means the Opera House can apply for grants and receive donations.
Although still in the early planning stages, Franklin said they are sure of one thing — the new marquee will be visible but not garish.
“We want to be sensitive to the neighborhood and to our neighbors, Milward Funeral Home. We want it to be aesthetically pleasing,” Franklin said.