New chairs, curtains on 'wish list' for historic Ellis Theater renovation
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 1:00 AM
New seating and stage curtains are among the numerous items on the Arts Council's "wish list" for the historic Ellis Theater as part of a major ongoing renovation that included a newly refurbished marquee.
Arts Council President Tim Moore displays the condition of the seats in the historic Ellis Theater. The Arts Council has a “wish list” for the Ellis which includes new larger seats.
Despite its age and appearance, the Ellis is still a functioning facility, Arts Council President Tim Moore said.
A longtime Arts Council member, director, actor and singer, Moore said the renovation would help not only in sprucing up the building but would make it a more attractive venue for future events.
The Ellis still has the original red and wood backed seats which were used when it was strictly a movie theater, Moore said.
"The only thing keeping the springs from showing is a layer of red tape," Moore said of the condition of many of the seats.
The plan is to bring in bigger seats in the same style and fully cushioned.
"We want to keep everything historical," Moore said.
Currently the theater has 501 seats total with 340 on the floor and the remainder in the balcony. Adding bigger seats would cause the theater to lose a third of its floor seating capacity.
"We'll try to keep as many as we can to utilize the room available and maybe expand out a little," Moore said.
Current plans do not include any new seats for the balcony.
"It will stay closed unless the floor is filled," Moore said. "That's always an option."
Moore cited a major need for new stage curtains as the current ones have become worn and torn over the past several decades, Moore said.
"We need new front, middle and side curtains," he said.
The Arts Council's "wish list" also includes improvements to the exterior of the Ellis.
Pink and blue-green tiles, dating back to the 1950s, on the front exterior of the building are cracked and broken.
"I would love to take the tiles off and expose the brick," Moore said. "But with the laws on restoring historic buildings we may not get to do that."
He said that when it comes to renovating historic buildings, guidelines under the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Commission only look back 50 years. The Ellis Theater, stemming back to the 1920s, originally had a brick front.
However, Moore said, the Arts Council could replace the tiles with newer ones in different colors.
New carpet and running lights, and overhead lights are also needed, Moore said.
Since the Ellis' days as a movie theater, it has been lit by red, blue and white lights from the top of the more than 30-foot ceiling.
Other items on the wish list are a new ice and hot dog machines.
The theater itself is not the Arts Council's only concern.
Moore said they are looking at new events to bring to the Ellis, including big name musical entertainment.
"We're looking at maybe 2015," he said. "We would have plays coincide with events to make sure we had available funds."
Other events being looked at are the possibility of bringing movies back to the Ellis.
"We still have the projector screen although it's not retractable," Moore said. "We'd have to look at what our rights are to show movies. Its legal stuff but we're not shying away from it."
Moore said the future of the Ellis Theater is bright.
"We have a 15 member board and a vision for the future," he said. "The Ellis is an asset to the community and any help would be appreciated. So stay tuned. It takes money to raise money to spend money."
The Arts Council is a 501 3 (c) non-profit organization and contributions of $25 or more are tax deductible.
The play, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," will be the next performance at the Ellis. It is set for November.