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Pine Bluff council to consider owning historic theater

Pine Bluff aldermen will vote Tuesday on a resolution to own the Saenger Theater.
PINE BLUFF, AR -- Pine Bluff aldermen will vote Tuesday on a resolution to own the Saenger Theatre.

Built in 1924, the Saenger Theatre used to be the place.

"This was originally called the showcase of of Arkansas," said Jack Stadley, executive director of the Old Town Theatre Centre, Inc., who oversees the building.

The 1,500-seat theatre hosted traveling plays, movies, and even headliners like Elvis.

"Houdini performed here, Will Rogers performed here. The list goes on," said Stadley.

But the theatre closed in the '70s, and it's led to a collapsed roof and flooding.

Stradley has led a campaign to raise money to rehab it but it's not enough.

"Our first donation came on June 2nd and it was $100," said Stradley.

The place brings back childhood memories for Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays, who supports a resolution for the city to own the theatre.

"It would be a great anchor for downtown Pine Bluff. We had a lot of fun.  We'd scrap money to bring cokes to come to the movies. They need an anchor to draw more walking traffic and more driving traffic," said Mays.

He says the city could apply for grants the non-profit organization doesn't qualify for -- to bring life back to a boarded up downtown.

"It's just worth a start. It might take 10 to 15 years to start this up but once we start with the roof I think everything will take care of itself," said Mays.

The meeting is tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. 
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