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Ashland Theatre to reopen after two years of renovations

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The Ashland Theater at 205 England Street will show Mary Poppins Returns as its first film. (Charlotte Woods)

ASHLAND, Va. — After a $2.1 million capital campaign and nearly two years of renovation efforts, an Art Deco gem in the heart of Ashland is set to reopen Dec. 26.

The restored Ashland Theatre at 205 England St. that day will show “Mary Poppins Returns,” a new film. But plans for the 70-year-old building go beyond movies, as a collaboration with Broadberry Entertainment Group is expected to provide live theater performances, stand-up comedy and music performances.

The nonprofit Ashland Theatre Foundation has overseen the former movie house’s revival and capital campaign. A prominent donor was Hugh Joyce, the bowtie-clad owner of James River Air Conditioning Co.

Joyce helped set up the foundation and serves as vice president of the operating board. In January, producer and artistic director Douglas Love was hired as CEO to help lead the project to completion.

“We basically gutted this place,” Love said of the site’s new layout, with an expanded lobby and larger concession stand. “We wanted to preserve some of the beauty of our 70-year-old marquee. We knew that design was going to survive and we used it in our logo.”

A view from the balcony. Final touches are underway ahead of the Dec 26 opening. (Charlotte Woods)

The revamped theater now features 4K Sony projection systems, 7.1 surround sound and about 300 seats, including the balcony. The interiors have been redone and expanded, with some original Art Deco features retained.

The renovation also added two dressing rooms backstage as well as ADA-accessible features such as ramps and even a shower. Chopper Dawson and F. Richard Wilton Jr. served as the contractors while McKinney & Co. handled the designs.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development granted $500,00 to the theater, which Town of Ashland matched. The town, which received the building as a donation from previous owner A.D. Whitaker, rents the building to the foundation for $1 per year.

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