Up in Lights

    The first half of the Holly Theatre neon sign is hoisted into position Monday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

    A portion of a 33-foot-long neon sign with the word "Holly" was lifted into place Monday, marking the latest milestone in bringing Southern Oregon's largest indoor theater back to life.

    The Holly Theatre's grand relighting ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, and work crews have picked up the pace to install a corner blade sign and new marquee under the watchful eye of onlookers.

    "I've been waiting for this for many years," said Charles Rice, a 63-year-old Medford resident. "I want to see that baby go up there so bad."

    Rice used to work in the Holly and other Southern Oregon theaters when he was younger. Gazing up at the Holly at the corner of Sixth and Holly streets, Rice said the new signs look remarkably similar to the old ones that were removed sometime in the 1970s.

    "It looks pretty darn close to the original," he said.

    The Jefferson Public Radio Foundation, which has undertaken the restoration of the Holly, is hosting the community ceremony. Sixth Street will be closed in front of the theater while the Easy Valley Eight provides entertainment and 38 Central sells refreshments.

    Hammond Construction Co. and other crews could be working until the last minute getting the exterior ready, but "everything will be done by Saturday at 7 p.m.," said Ron Kramer, executive director of JPR and the foundation.

    Sometime after 8 p.m., a short presentation from the Holly Theatre Restoration Committee and Mayor Gary Wheeler will be given, followed by the lighting ceremony.

    Cracked trusses inside the building are still being repaired, so visitors won't be able go inside the theater.

    A local company, Epic Scan, has prepared a 3-D video tour of the interior depicting what the theater will look like once it's restored. The video will be displayed on a large screen during the event.

    Kramer said the facade repairs will cost from $215,000 to $275,000, with $100,000 donated by the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. The two signs alone cost $80,000 and were built by Alpha Signs in Sacramento, Calif.

    MURA has set aside $200,000 for repairing the trusses.

    The new corner sign, which juts out from the southwest corner of the building, will have red and white neon that highlights the word "Holly." At the very top of the sign, which extends to almost the top of the building, a fan pattern will also be lit with neon.

    At 2,500 pounds, the new neon sign is mostly made of aluminum and uses solid-state electronics to cut down on electricity consumption. The new sign weighs about one-third of the original.

    The new marquee will weigh 1,600 pounds and is 19 feet wide, 9 feet tall and 7 feet deep. It will have the words "Holly Theatre" in neon.

    Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs will be replaced with LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs to save energy.

    The marquee will resemble the original, except the word "Vitaphone" will not be included in the new sign.

    Rachel Woods, a 67-year-old Medford resident, said the last time she remembers going to the Holly is when "The Graduate" was playing. "The Graduate," featuring Ann Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role, played in 1967.

    Woods said the restoration appeared fairly faithful to what she remembers of the theater from her youth.

    "I'm really surprised it is still standing," she said.

    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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