Exploring Alabama - The Ritz

In Greenville, members of the Greenville Area Arts Council are working to restore their old movie theater to its original condition nearly 70 years ago. Built in 1935, the Ritz slowly ran its course and by 1982 it was about ready for demolition.

Roberta Gamble of the GAAC described it as "A real house of horrors." Regardless of its condition, Gamble and her friends finally convinced the city to buy it. In the 22 years since, GAAC has continued to bring in dramatic plays, pageants and musicals non-stop. "We've been pretty ambitious for a such a tiny stage," said Mrs. Gamble.

Between plays and pageants, they've worked tirelessly to restore the theater to its original condition. Along the way, they've scraped together funds to restore the lobby, build a new reception area with kitchen, art deco trim and period chandelier. They've added a new conference room, expanded the stage, added new theatrical lighting, and replicated the original carpet throughout. Perhaps most noticeably, they completely re-finished the 450 seats.

But there's a lot more to do - starting with the outside. Mrs. Gamble says, "To have the whole front looking good would be a metaphor for the revival of downtown...saving our little downtown.

Here's hoping that happens, too…because after all, in Mrs. Gamble's words, "It's a splendid little house...it's just wonderful."