In historic downtown Brunswick, one cultural treasure has been restored, thanks to aid from the Atlanta-based Fox Theatre Institute. By partnering with the 1899 Art Deco movie palace, the institute was able to help the theater replace 58 of its original windows which were “literally falling out,” as one Brunswick resident put it.
The institute selected the Ritz for a theater-to-theater mentorship project in part because of the community’s enthusiasm and desire to support revitalization efforts. “One of Brunswick’s most significant features is its investment to support its community,” said Fox Theatre Institute Director of Restoration, Molly Fortune. “And the Fox Theatre Institute matched the city’s investment, figuratively and literally.”
In addition to providing restoration expertise, the institute gave the Ritz $30,000 in funds, which the city of Brunswick was able to match. After doing a cost-analysis, it was determined that restoring the windows would be less costly than replacing them, and skilled local craftsmen were employed to do the repairs.
“We wanted more than just contractors,” Fortune said. “We wanted local people who have worked with similar period buildings. Also, Brunswick has unique weather-related challenges and we needed people familiar with how certain materials react in certain conditions.” After the windows were replaced, using a painstaking 24-step process, the exterior was painted to match the color of the original 1899 brick facade.
The Ritz Theatre, which presents a full season of theater in addition to community events, is a leading economic driver in the revitalization of downtown Brunswick. Thanks to its activity and the increased foot traffic theater patrons have brought, new restaurants and shops have opened, and existing shops and restaurants have extended their opening hours. And, sometimes those patrons are also the performers — Mayor Bryan Thompson played Scrooge in the theater’s last production of A Christmas Carol.