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Historic Theatre Restoration To Help Boost McKenzie Economy

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

CARROLL COUNTY, Tenn.- Residents in McKenzie are joining forces to save the historic downtown movie theater, with hopes it's restoration will help boost their local economy.

McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that the town's economic future depends on the restoration of their downtown Park Theater.

"It plays such a big part in moving McKenzie to the next level economically, culturally and of course when that happens we hope a mushroom effect will be created," said Mayor Holland. "We hope to make the downtown the heart of the town again like it was 30-40 years ago."

The Park Theater was built in 1940 with its last show airing in the late 1990's. Holland said businesses have struggled in the downtown location over the past decade. Right now 50-60 percent of the buildings downtown are empty.

"It has deteriorated as in many small towns the traffic is fine but the economy has just not been favorable for small business," said Phil Williams, business owner.

Residents started a fund raising group known as, "ACT II" to raise funds and restore the building. So far the group has refurbished two historic theater chairs. Organizers said the chairs can be dedicated to people through donations.

"A lot of people have memories here. It's apart of our lives, what this park theater made for us," said resident Joel Summers.

Holland said the city has received a Parks and Recreation grant for $135,000 but the money will go towards restoring the outside of the theater and more funds are needed to continue the restoration project.

"We are really going to have to work hard to make sure our little community survives and with everybody working together. I know we can do that but it's going to take a group effort," said Williams.

Organizers with the group ACT II said chairs, and stars in the interior theater's wall and sidewalk are on sale for donations.

To learn how you can help continue this project call McKenzie City Hall at (731) 352-3114.