The Tybee Post Theater first opened its doors in 1932 to a crowd of soldiers from Fort Screven.
Today, the audience looks a little different, but the sentiment is the same.
Everyone desires a place to gather and be entertained. Fortunately for Tybee Island, the theater will soon reopen to the community.
Featuring an Art Moderne interior and impressive sound system for its day, the Post Theater was the hub of island entertainment in the 1930s and '40s.
When "The Outlaw" debuted in 1943, troops of uniformed men filled the seats to catch a glimpse of notorious starlet Jane Russell.
The theater saw a decline in ticket sales in the decades following Fort Screven's departure from Tybee Island.
In the '60s and '70s, many neighborhood theaters lost their significance when suburban sprawl attracted residents outward.
The Tybee Post Theater was not exempt from the trend; its final film screening occurred in the late '60s.
After changing hands several times, the theater was eventually slated for demolition in 2000. Fortunately, the Tybee Historical Society stepped in.
Recognizing the historical significance and future potential of the building, the Historical Society purchased the theater.
Over the past 10 years, Friends of the Tybee Theater have worked hard at restoring the space to its former glory.
"We've already put almost a million dollars into the theater," said Jim Klutz, president of the Tybee Post Theater. "That includes the purchase of the theater, roof, facade, doors and windows, and some electrical work. From someone just driving by, it's hard to see that money. But it's there. It's been used, and used well."
Recent upgrades include ADA restrooms, a small concession area and front foyer. Once finished, the Tybee Post Theater will seat about 275 people and host film screenings, concerts, plays, lectures, children's programs and more.
"Tybee Island is filled with creative people. The theater will provide them with a positive outlet to share that creativity with the community," Klutz said.
The Tybee Post Theater is scheduled to open its doors in 2014. Stay tuned for a formal announcement, which should be released later this year.
In the meantime, Friends of Tybee Theater have plans to make the theater functional prior to the official opening so the community can use it right away.
Cullen Chambers, president of the Tybee Historical Society, is confident it will happen soon.
"We are moving forward even as we speak with the main air conditioning and electrical upgrades for the auditorium. Once that's done, we can start having active performances in the theater itself," Chambers said.
Oct. 19 marks the Tybee Island Yard Sale, an island-wide event that benefits the Tybee Post Theater, as well as the community. The theater will be open for visits during the sale. Other upcoming fundraising events include the Polar Plunge on Jan. 1 and the 2014 Tybee Wine Fest in April.
"The Tybee Post Theater will transform this area in terms of social and cultural activities," Cullen said. "It will offer much-needed quality family entertainment both for residents and visitors. It will bring additional revenue to the community because it will expand visitor opportunities and keep people on Tybee longer."
"And most important to me, it will be a social gathering place for residents at Tybee so it will reaffirm our sense of community."
In an era when people are starting to acknowledge the significance and impact of neighborhood theaters again, it couldn't be better timing.
Be sure to visit the Tybee Post Theater website at www.tybeeposttheater.org for more information on how you can be involved.
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