At 90, Kentucky Theatre a downtown jewel

Kentucky Theatre marquee on Sept. 25 in downtown Lexington
Kentucky Theatre marquee on Sept. 25 in downtown Lexington Herald-Leader

Time has revealed the wisdom of what struck many as an unconventional, even risky, move: Then-mayor Scotty Baesler and the Urban County Council decided the city should buy the Kentucky Theatre.

It was the best, and possibly only, way to re-open the landmark and assure it would be restored to its movie-palace glory after a fire next door in 1987 closed and damaged the theatre.

Editorials we published during the years of uncertainty over the Kentucky's future pointed out that there was a time in the 1970s when the Kentucky was the only thing that drew people downtown at night.

As the Kentucky celebrates its 90th birthday and the 20th anniversary of its rebirth, the historic venue is an important part of a much livelier downtown nightlife.

Rejuvenating an old movie palace or a downtown is an unceasing project.

The Kentucky needs some work which is why Friends of the Kentucky Theatre are trying to raise $1.5 million to pay for needed upgrades, most urgently a digital projector to keep showing films next year, and also new seats.

Downtown owes its revival to a combination of private imagination, investment and philanthropy, as well as investments, large and small, by government.

At the time the council approved a bond issue to buy the Kentucky, it also wisely decided to put the theatre under independent management. This arrangement has worked well. Just ask the celebrants who will gather tonight for a Kentucky Theatre birthday party and a free showing of a documentary about the movie house.

It's been a great run. Here's to another 90 years.