PORTLAND — After a $1.5 million renovation that included new seats, new plaster, new paint, new carpet, and new lights and sound equipment, the 81-year-old State Theatre is ready for its reopening on Friday with a sold out show by My Morning Jacket.
The theater, which has been closed since 2006, was opened for a press tour this morning to show off some of the renovations.
The ones most visible were the new seats in the lower section of the theater. The sloped section of the floor is covered with rows of permanent red padded theater seats with arms, while the theater’s previous operator had some of the sloped area left bare for standing room.
The two sections nearest the stage have folding chairs, padded and with arms, that can be removed to reveal a flat standing area for certain shows.
The walls of the theater have been replastered, with a textured plaster that matches the Art Deco feel of the place, and repainted an earthy dark brown. The theater’s original architectural flourishes, including four faux balconies, giant banks of columns and sculpted scenes on each side of the stage, have been repainted and cleaned so that they are much more noticeable. Some have been retouched with glimmering gold paint.
“We hope people notice a lot of what’s been done,” said Lauren Wayne, the theater’s general manager. “It was really a collaboration to get the theater up to this point.”
Built in 1929 as a movie palace, the State Theatre had become a pornographic film venue by the late 1960s and remained one until the late 1980s. It was renovated and restored in the early 1990s for use as a performing arts space, but a series of operators could not make a go of the place. In 2006 the last operator left and the venue has been closed since.
In May, New York-based music promotion company The Bowery Presents and New England promoter Alex Crothers of Higher Ground Presents signed a deal with the building owners, Stone Coast Properties, to run the theater. The theater is located on Congress Street, near Congress Square, in the center of the city’s arts district.
Wayne said many of the renovations, including safety-related ones, were done by the building owners. Another renovation to the theater includes making the stage some 21 inches higher. Wayne said that was done to make the stage more visible, especially to people who remain seated while other people are standing near the stage. The theater’s bar area, nestled among the seats, was also rebuilt with mahogany. Parts of the ceiling were also rebuilt.
Seats in the balcony area were not replaced, but were cleaned, Wayne said.
The theater’s reopening weekend includes the sold-out show by My Morning Jacket on Friday followed on Saturday by a performance by the band moe. On Sunday there will be a free open house featuring performances by local bands from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wayne said. Anyone is welcome to come see the renovated theater, and listen to bands, Wayne said.
Wayne said she had hoped to bring in about 80 shows a year to the theater, and already has more than 20 scheduled between now and the end of the year.
For information and a list of shows, go to www.statetheatreportland.com