Big expectations for the Merced Theatre

FRESNO, Calif.

The historic Merced Theatre remains one of the most recognizable sights in the city, despite being closed for nearly a decade.

Joe Sanders said, "Almost every day, someone walks through the door at my office and says I remember when..."

But now this facility filled with nostalgia is also filled with construction crews. They're working to restore the building to the vibrant showplace it was from 1931 to 1978. Before new owners turned it into a movie theater that closed in 2002. Architects based the blueprints on pictures from the original castle-style stage, and are using many of the original items.

Sanders said, "We pulled a lot of the original doors, light fixtures, tile."

When this 11 hundred seat theatre is complete, it will offer classic movies, community events, and concerts.

Dan Holmes said, "What we've been told is because of our location we're going to pick up the concerts of some big name entertainers as they have openings through the Valley."

The Merced Theatre Foundation operates the city-owned building. Its members say state grants and more than two million dollars in donations have paid for most of the project, but they're asking for more money from the public to add the finishing touches.

Grey Roberts said, "There's a wish list we have of about 4 or 5 items, the orchestra shell, curtains..."

The theatre will receive revenue from some apartments and commercial spaces on the property. And the foundation believes it will also help draw more businesses to downtown.

Lee Anderson said, "I expect in 2 years if we're as successful as we hope to be that that whole block in which the Merced Theatre sits will be much more lively."

But for now the group is focusing on getting ready for the grand opening early next year.

Kathleen Crookham said, "Oh I think it's just gonna be a day for the biggest celebration Merced's ever seen!"

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