DeSoto Theatre is a treasure, board member says

The painting of the Historic Desoto Theater downtown in April by Terry Hobbs (left) and Michael Wolfenbarger, of Johnson’s Home Service, is just one way the theater is being restored to its former glory. (File / Rome News-Tribune)

Jim Powell considers the DeSoto Theatre to be a jewel in Rome’s crown and he is working with others to see it restored to its original glory.

Powell, a Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation board member, spoke to the Noon Optimist Club on Monday during its weekly meeting.

The foundation began a few years ago, Powell said, when it was clear the 82-year-old theater was crumbling.

Powell said the theater was the first in the South designed to play talking movies.

“We realized that if we didn’t do something soon, the roof would collapse in on us,” Powell said.

The theater, built in 1929, was purchased by the Rome Little Theatre in 1981.

“They have done some great work,” Powell said.

Through a partnership with RLT, the city of Rome and several other organizations, the DeSoto has been able to begin the theater restoration process.

“We view the DeSoto as a treasure that needs to be saved,” Powell said.

He said the Fox Theatre Institute worked to repair the

ceiling in the theater’s arcade to the original paint color and motif.

Local board members were also able to redo the façade of the building and replace the roof with a block grant.

The upstairs rooms of the theater, which were in disrepair, were restored by Seven Hills Fellowship Church, which meets in the theater.

“We’ve had a lot of great partnerships,” Powell said.

The theater is working on upgrading the lighting and sound systems and has installed a new screen and will soon install a DVD player.

Powell said the theater hopes to begin a movie series soon.

“We want this to be something all of Rome is proud of,” he said. “There is so much more we’ve go to do.”

The to-do list includes a paint job in the interior of the theater, new seats, and some more detail work on the building’s façade.

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