DOUGLAS, Ariz. — In its heyday, the Grand Theatre in Douglas welcomed stars including a young Ginger Rogers. They say it was the biggest stage to see from Texas to California.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the theater and a celebration is planned on Friday in Douglas. The doors first opened in 1919, but now inside it's unrecognizable. Mother nature has run its course and trees and plants grow where moviegoers once lounged.
"Many people have never been inside. It closed in 1958 and so the majority of people from my generation have no concept of what it is," said Jenea Sanchez.
Sanchez is the co-founder of the Border Arts Corridor (BAC). The group focuses on cultivating arts and cultural programming in the border town and it has taken on the Grand Theatre restoration project.
"In 1972 the Douglas Arts and Humanities Association started to fundraise in order to restore the Grand Theatre. In the 80's the roof collapsed," Sanchez said. "So since then it's really been a challenge."
In the 40's and 50's, Sanchez says her mother and her mother's aunts would visit the Grand. There may be no roof in the auditorium but if you look closely you can still see some of the original molding.
It's that energy from the past that's inspired Sanchez and the BAC to give the Douglas the theater they say it deserves.
"We're trying to do some fundraising. It's a heavy lifting job," said BAC board member Diana LaMar. "It's a multi-million dollar renovation project so we have a lot of fundraising to do."
Some work has already been done. In recent years hundreds of thousands of dollars was put in to restore the stage. It may never look quite like it did before, but the BAC says there are are many options. The Grand could become an open-air space for performances, graduations and more.
"We are so deserving of the space. There's so much talent, there's so much potential to bring it back to life and to really integrate it into the contemporary culture of our border community," Sanchez said.
The next phase of remodeling will cost $100,000 and will include new doors for the building, removing rotting wood panels, restoring the entrance and lobby area, creating an ADA approved walking path from the lobby to the auditorium, and more.
A special centennial celebration will be held on Friday, January 25. The community is invited to the free party from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It will be on G Avenue outside of the Grand. There will be music, local art and cake.
If you would like to donate to the restoration project, here is a link.