Public radio foundation wants to restore old Medford theater

A foundation associated with Jefferson Public Radio has agreed to buy the Holly Theatre in downtown Medford and plans to restore the historic theater as a multi-use performing arts center, similar to the Cascade Theatre that the foundation restored and operates in Redding, Calif.

The JPR Foundation must raise $499,000 by March 15 to complete the purchase, then expects to need $3 million to $4 million to restore the Holly Theatre. No timeline for the restoration has been set, officials said.

“This project builds on the JPR Foundation’s prior experience restoring and operating an historic theatre and dovetails with JPR’s desire to contribute to the educational and cultural life of the communities we serve in ways beyond radio,” Foundation Executive Director Ronald Kramer said in a statement announcing the pending purchase.

The JPR Foundation plans to reach out to a broad-based group of government agencies and private sources to find support for the project.

Kramer said he expects the project to attract supporters interested in revitalizing Medford’s downtown as well as those interested in historic preservation and boosting arts and cultural events.The Cascade Theatre, which was purchased in 1999 and opened in 2004, received significant funding from the Redding Redevelopment Agency and foundations interested in the revival of Redding’s downtown.

Kramer said the foundation wants to do a historically accurate restoration of the Holly Theatre, which opened in 1930 as the first Medford cinema designed for movies with sound, Southern Oregon Historical Society records show. Built at a cost of $100,000, the 1,200-seat Spanish Colonial Revival-style theater was described as the city’s most elegant movie palace.

The foundation hopes to restore its interior opulence with 1,000 seats, and its exterior marquee and 32-foot-tall vertical neon sign that hung from the building’s Holly Street corner.

Kramer said the restored theater could complement offerings by The Craterian Ginger Rogers Theatre and Britt Festivals. It would provide a larger space than The Craterian and could find its own niche producing concerts, presenting film events and being available for traveling and local acts to rent.

— Anita Burke

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