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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

A theater's rebirth

THE rebirth of the Maumee Indoor Theater, an art deco landmark in Toledo's western suburb, warrants the community's gratitude. It's a truly wonderful project.

Festive events this weekend welcome the 1940s facility back to viability as a modern movie theater, a performing arts and meeting center, and an economic development and preservation project. These are far more than it achieved in its former life, which ended in 1996.

It took extensive collaboration of people and units of government at many levels to pull off the renovation, at a cost of about $3 million. The building lends considerable style and character to what would otherwise be a rather mediocre business strip corner.

The restoration required the basics of money and the design and refurbishing it bought, to be sure. But equally important was the pooling of community enthusiasm and artistic appreciation that guaranteed the theater would not disappear after it was closed eight years ago. City acquisition of space for theater parking across Conant Street will guarantee a measure of success.

Now the community, and movie-goers looking to see silver screen classics and a broad assortment of reruns, will find a spiritual home at the Maumee Indoor Theater, with its two screens (the smaller for parties and special viewings), fire-retardant curtains, and refurbished seating.

A theater like the Maumee sparks a nostalgic connection. Look at the revival of the Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo, or the new life given the Ohio Theater on LaGrange Street, which offers movies and concerts, the Cla-zel in Bowling Green, the Ritz in Tiffin, or the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.

Older theaters like the Maumee, especially those built in the 1930s and 1940s, with their art deco or baroque styling, offered common people a sense of opulence and fantasy that brightened their lives.

Often given regal and grand names - the Palace, the Majestic, the Royal, the Princess - they took people to a place they couldn't otherwise go. Maumee folks will once again have the same opportunity.

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