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'Crown jewel' returns to Culpeper landmark

Wednesday - 12/12/2012, 12:25pm  ET

Free Lance-Star

CULPEPER, Va. - From the roof of a three-story building across the street, Ed Bednarczyk, using time-lapse photography, captured the return to the State Theatre's refurbished marquee.

"The people of Culpeper have waited eight years for this day," said the State Theatre Foundation's executive director.

Tuesday morning, a crane lifted the "State" sign in place, with the "Air Conditioned" sign going up during the afternoon.

Wednesday, both sides of the marquee, the area where letters are placed to inform Main Street motorists what is playing at the theater, will be attached and the front of the Culpeper landmark will be much the same as it was in the 1970s (When the theatre opened in 1938, it was the Pitts Theater).

"I think the people will be energized now that the crown jewel of this theater is back in place," Bednarczyk said.

Electricians will spend the next few days wiring up the marquee in anticipation of the theatre's Grand Illumination celebration to be held between 6-8 p.m. Dec. 19.

"Once again those lights will shine brightly on the South Main Street motorists," Bednarczyk said.

The marquee returned to Culpeper last week after three years in Ohio. During that time, it was refurbished and stored by the Wagner Electric Sign Co. in the town of Elyria, about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland.

"It returned right on schedule," said Bednarczyk, who noted that the $9 million State Theatre renovation project is also right on schedule.

Culpeper entrepreneur and native Greg Yates bought the run-down theatre building in 2003 and deeded it to the newly formed foundation. The State Theatre had closed in 1993 ("Free Willy" was its final showing).

For almost a decade, the foundation has struggled to raise funds not only to restore the movie house (which also has a large stage) to its former glory, but also to enlarge the building to include offices and other amenities.

The theater will show vintage films (courtesy of the Library of Congress' Packard Center in Culpeper), hold stage productions and host music shows on what foundation officials hope will be a seven-day-a-week schedule.

Work on the outside of the facility is almost complete and a 10-day grand opening is set to begin May 4.

"Then Culpeper's next renaissance will begin," Bednarczyk said.


The Free Lance-Star is published in Fredericksburg.


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