Missouri Theatre's coming attractions

An extreme makeover will soon be featured at a theater near you. This weekend, the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts will close until June 2008 for major renovations and expansion.
Thursday, July 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:11 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008
An artist’s rendering of the future Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts building hangs just inside the front doors, alongside other drawings from the architect. The renovation, inside and outside, will be funded by tax credits, grants and donations.

What will change?

The Architects Alliance of Jefferson City drew up the plans and specifications to restore the 80-year-old theater in the style of the original building. Among the particulars:


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  • Architects used a chemical compound to peel back layers of paint to determine the original building’s colors.
  • Photos from the theater’s early years were used to determine the carpet pattern and other flooring throughout the building.
  • Fabric wall coverings and mirrored wall tile will be used in certain areas. The curtains for the main stage, however, will be cleaned and refurbished.
  • You barely notice the stained glass underneath the balcony right now, but next June it will glow with the help of restored backlighting and a good cleaning.
  • The Ninth Street marquee will be redone to look like it did when the theater opened in 1928. The current one reflects a later era, White said, and is in such bad condition he expects it will crumble once the main supports are removed.
  • New bathrooms, an art gallery, updated lighting and sound systems and office space for the Missouri Symphony Society and the Columbia Art League.

Can I watch?

Yes, you can. Photos and videos of the project will be posted at

Can I help?

  • Five contractors have bid for the project, and one will be selected “very soon,” Executive Director David White said. Meanwhile, community members are asked to donate a few hours next week for what White calls “light demolition.” He asks that volunteers be at least 18-years-old, in good health, able to lift at least 50 pounds and “know how to laugh a lot.”

Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. White said volunteers should wear hard-toed shoes, and he strongly recommends bringing work gloves and, if you have it, a ratchet set.

  • After the demolition dust settles, parts of the theater will be up for sale, including light fixtures, marquee letters and old carpet. The “kind of stuff you find in a theater” sale, as White calls it, is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 5.

How is this being paid for?

The fundraising goal has been $6.67 million. So far, $5.58 million has been raised or promised, according to White and theatre spokeswoman Kanani May. Here’s the breakdown:

  • $2 million in historic tax credits will be granted to the theater once renovations are complete and it passes cost certification, a process to make sure everything was restored as planned. In the meantime, tax credits are used as collateral for a construction loan to get the project rolling.
  • $1,837,901 from a silent campaign which began in August 2006, including $250,000 from the estate of Mary Nell Porter.
  • $855,000 in grants from the City of Columbia and others, including $250,000 from the hotel tax grant provided by the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
  • $339,500 from the Take Your Seat campaign, where people can sponsor a new seat in the theater.
  • $18,440 from Home is Where the Art Is campaign. David White walked all over Columbia in a “Where’s Waldo?” get-up asking people to donate money. White sustained a stress fracture to his shin bone.
  • Possible $500,000 from a federal Interior spending bill.

Where’s everybody going?

  • The Missouri Theatre box office and administration will move to 910 E. Broadway, Suite 101. The mailing address will stay the same, 203 S. Ninth St.
  • Four of the six businesses displaced by the project will remain downtown. The new locations are:

Allen’s Flowers, 111 S. Ninth St., Suite 170

Top Ten Wines, 111 S. Ninth St., Suite 160

Dawson’s Shoe Repair, 212 S. Eighth St.

Bryant’s Campus Jewelers, 420 E. Broadway

Universi-T’s/Corporate Identi-T’s, 3503 Buttonwood Drive

Acorn Books will retain its satellite locations at Ice Chalet, Marketplace and Columbia Antique Mall.

The shows must go on, so where will they go?

  • True False Film Festival and the Ragtag Cinecafe’s Missouri Theatre Film Series: Expect an announcement about alternative venues this fall, organizer Paul Sturtz said.
  • Missouri Symphony Society Children’s Choir: Rehearsals in the choir room at Smithton Middle School and winter and spring concerts in Jesse Auditorium at MU.
  • Moss Youth Orchestra and Junior Strings: Rehearsals in the band room at West Junior High School and winter and spring concerts in Jesse Auditorium.
  • Columbia Civic Orchestra and the Columbia Chorale: Rehearsals and performances will be at Missouri United Methodist Church.
  • Plowman Chamber Music Competition: The March competition will rehearse in MU’s Whitmore Recital Hall and perform at First Baptist Church.
  • Boonslick Chordbusters: Performances will be held throughout Columbia, including the Columbia Mall, the new Elks Club on Route WW, outdoor locations, churches and high schools.
  • MU Show-Me Opera: No performance venues have been set.
  • Pace Youth Theatre: Performances will be at Smithton Middle School.

And next June?

Expect five days of performances to precede the start of the 2008 Hot Summer Nights Music Festival so the public can get to know the new old theater.

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