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Paducah’s Columbia Theater renamed ‘Columbia Art House’ amid restoration

The historic Columbia theater.
Save the Columbia
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The historic Columbia theater.

The Columbia Theater in downtown Paducah has been renamed the Columbia Art House by its volunteer board as part of an ongoing restoration process for the historic venue.

Darlene Mazzone, chair of the Columbia Art House Board of Directors, said the new moniker will better reflect how the downtown theater — opened in 1927 and shuttered 60 years later — will be utilized in the future.

“We anticipate the restored theater to become a cultural center in the heart of downtown Paducah,” Mazzone said. “We know that the Columbia will be a great deal more than just a ‘theater.’”

Such applications may include film showings, musical performances, author lectures, art exhibits, wedding rentals and more. Mazzone, who has been involved with the project since its inception in 2013, asserts this would closely align with the culture for which downtown Paducah is so known.

According to the “Save the Columbia” website, this restoration is meant to serve as “an economic driver, a tool in creative placemaking, a beacon of architectural history and a space for programming” alongside local art house Maiden Alley Cinema.

“We began with a group of passionate people, and in the course of the last nine years, we have covered a lot of territory,” Mazzone said. “We have performed virtually all of the ‘boots on the ground’ work that we can do on our own.”

Cleveland-based architectural firm DLR Group, which Mazzone said has worked on historic theaters nationally and internationally, has since stepped in to guide the restoration of the Columbia Art House. The Kentucky Colonels organization previously helped an Atlanta-based company restore the original fire curtain inside the theater.

“The scope and cost of restoring the theater to its original grandeur was monumentally expensive,” Mazzone noted. “Consequently, we are now in the midst of a revised plan that will cut the cost almost in half so that we can hope to move the project along and proscribe a reliable timeline.”

The board also recently commissioned a market analysis to inform upcoming operational plans for the theater.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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