The Tennessee Theatre will celebrate the return of its iconic vertical sign to Gay Street and the newly refurbished marquee with a free open house and relighting ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
“The vertical sign is an important part of downtown Knoxville’s visual identity and our theater’s history,” Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said. “After more than two months of work, we will welcome back our vertical sign and refurbished marquee, both of which will shine on Gay Street even brighter and better. We look forward to the public joining us for the celebration.”
During the open house sponsored by McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects and Interior Designers, the Tennessee Theatre will be open to the public for self-guided tours of the stage and backstage areas from 6-8 p.m. House organist Dr. Bill Snyder will play the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, and a caricature artist will be at the event to draw guests with the iconic Tennessee Theatre marquee.
At 8 p.m., guests will move outside onto Gay Street, which will be closed in front of the theater for the event, for a ceremony featuring Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Tennessee Theatre board members and officials from Pattison Sign Group, which handled the project. Elected officials and donors will join Hancock in leading a countdown to the official relighting of the vertical sign and marquee with brighter, more energy-efficient LED light bulbs.
When the marquee project was announced in April, the Tennessee Theatre launched a fundraising campaign to raise $150,000 to cover the cost of the refurbishment. Through cash and in-kind donations, the theater has raised more than $136,000 and is asking for the community’s continued support to completely fund the project.
At the event, guests also will have the opportunity to sponsor a bulb for $25 or purchase several commemorative items, including a hand-crafted vertical sign glass ornament or fine art print of the marquee, to help fund the project. More information on the campaign can be found at www.tennesseetheatre.com/marquee.
The marquee project also was supported by a $65,000 grant from the City of Knoxville, corporate gifts from Pattison Sign Group and Scripps Networks Interactive, and individual donations from the community.
Locally headquartered Pattison Sign Group, one of the largest sign and visual communication companies in the world, donated its services at cost to remove the vertical sign, replace all light bulbs, repair wiring and damage and reaffix the sign to the Burwell Building.
At its facility in South Carolina, Pattison Sign Group divided the four-ton vertical sign into three pieces for accessibility to replace 3,300 light bulbs with energy-efficient LED lighting; install electrical upgrades; repaint the sign; and repair cosmetic damage from daily wear-and-tear and recent hailstorms.
Additionally, the company oversaw repairs on the Tennessee Theatre marquee, which remained in place. Approximately 2,400 light bulbs were replaced, cosmetic damage was repaired, the marquee was repainted and message boards on the marquee were replaced and upgraded.
“The Tennessee Theatre sign is one of the most beloved icons of our region,” said Jeff Allison, sales manager at Pattison Sign Group. “At Pattison, we do work around the world, but this project has been especially meaningful for our employees who live and work in this community. We are pleased to be able to give Knoxville a brighter and more beautiful sign and marquee.”
Pattison Sign Group anticipates that the vertical sign will return to Gay Street about a week before the official relighting and will remain dark until the ceremony. Gay Street will be closed overnight for the sign to be placed back on the Burwell Building, a process expected to take approximately eight hours.
About the Tennessee Theatre
Located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee Theatre opened in 1928 as a movie palace. The Tennessee Theatre is the Official State Theatre of Tennessee and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Theatre is the region’s leading performing arts center with advanced technology, staging and lighting that draws top entertainment to the Knoxville area. For more information, visit www.tennesseetheatre.com.