If you are curious about what is happening inside Wytheville’s Millwald Theatre, Saturday is your day to find out. From 4 to 6 p.m., there will be Sneak Peek at the Millwald, an open house that will let the community see first-hand the progress being made on the theatre renovation.
After you tour the site, walk to the Wytheville Farmers Market for free refreshments courtesy of the GWHS Band Boosters and learn more about how the century-old theatre will be used for years to come.
The multi-million dollar restoration project is expected to run through next summer.
Mark Bloomfield, chairman of the Millwald Theatre Inc. board of directors, said Millwald leaders look forward to showing off the theatre during the Open House.
“And we want more people to understand and get excited about the theatre,” he said. “We will be touring the lobby and main auditorium. There are many people who have never seen it as one auditorium. We have had many people ask to see the inside, so we also thought we could create a safe event to let them take a look. Our ushers will be explaining what is going in the barber shop and video store and how the theatre will change.”
Spaces for The Main Street Barber Shop and The Video Exchange were created years ago from the original theatre blueprint. The two businesses, along with Crosswalk Church, which met inside the theatre, were displaced two years ago to make way for the theatre renovation.
In addition to the open house, Millwald Theatre Inc. recently launched a new website at www.themillwald.org to provide updated information on the theatre’s history and renovation progress.
According to Mark Bloomfield, chairman of Millwald Theatre Inc., the website includes an interactive timeline that covers establishing the organization in 2017 through the beginning of construction in July 2021. Visitors can see the architect’s plans for renovations to the main auditorium including bringing back the balcony as well as the expansion on the lower level to include classrooms, dressing rooms, a green room, office space and a stage lift.
On the website, you can also revisit the Better Days Ahead concert series and the performers who were on stage during the Covid19 shutdown.
The new website also offers a convenient opportunity for community members to continue providing financial support to complete the project. With over $4,000,000 secured to-date, an additional $600,000 is needed in local gifts and pledges to reach the goal of opening in late summer/early fall 2022.
When fully restored, the Millwald will operate as a theatre, cultural arts and education center. The facility is expected to employ seven fulltime positions to support the daily operations of the facility in addition to part-time employees for special events/performances.
Plans call for the theatre to be open daily, welcoming visitors and bringing economic benefits to the community. With seating for 500, the renovated Millwald will support varied programming like live shows, cinema and educational activities.
The restoration will also stabilize and secure the historical landmark, improve the attractiveness of downtown to potential businesses and increase downtown property tax values, officials have said.
Construction includes restoring one 500 seat auditorium with state-of-the art sound and lighting along with the capability of showing a movie or conducting a live on-stage event.
Downstairs there will be four dressing rooms, a green room, three classrooms, an administration office, restrooms and an auxiliary concession stand space. With a ceiling height of 8 to 11 feet, it doesn’t feel crowded, Bloomfield said earlier this year.
Each level of the theatre offers about 7,500 square feet of space.
Upstairs, the two cinemas created years go in the theatre’s balcony will be torn away to create a new balcony space. Also upstairs, there will be a concession area, restrooms and a gift shop.
The Millwald Theatre opened Aug. 28, 1928, with a screening of the silent film “Beau Broadway,” starring Lew Cody and Aileen Pringle. It wasn’t long, though, till the theater showed its first “talkie,” Al Jolson’s 1927 musical “The Jazz Singer.” In August 2005, the Millwald showed its last two films: “Four Brothers” and “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.”