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Columbia revival gaining wide community support

By MASON BLANFORD mblanford@paducahsun.com

Some 200 supporters of the Columbia Theater's restoration met at Hotel 1857 on Tuesday to celebrate the historic cinema's 90th birthday.

After opening in 1927, the Columbia enjoyed a 60-year run before closing down.

Present were members of the Paducah Art House Alliance board, locals interested in its revival and noteworthy donors -- including the Carson Myre Foundation, which contributed $100,000 to current efforts.

Speakers from the board addressed ongoing issues for the Columbia in its environmental cleanup, the funding sought and its planned union with Maiden Alley Cinema as a "sister theatre" to better serve community interests.

Board member Randy Davis discussed multiple efforts to bring the Columbia closer to restoration, including asbestos removal and the application of a Brownfield Clean-up Grant that -- if awarded -- would contribute about $200,000 to the cinema's abatement process.

Total funding -- past and present -- for the massive undertaking was priced at "above $8 million" by Maiden Alley Cinema Executive Director Landee Bryant-Greene.

She spoke of the union of the two theatres under the Paducah Art House Alliance, of which she is executive director.

More space and screens for theatergoers would allow them to enjoy a social experience, she said. Paducah also could better serve artistic needs with wider programming.

"It's about economic development, historic preservation and bringing new businesses to (the area)," Bryant-Greene said. "It's so much bigger than just Maiden Alley, but I'm behind this 100 percent for a bigger purpose that will benefit Paducah in such a great way."

Board member Mickey Brown added that the Columbia's revival would bring more "life and energy" into the community.

Board member Hal Sullivan said: "The Paducah Art House Alliance Board believes the revival of this venue will be transformational, not just for Paducah, but for the region in general."

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