by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND--It's bringing more than just movies back to downtown.
Whether you spell theatre with an "r-e" or an "e-r", The Ritz Cultural Events Center is sure to provide entertainment for all tastes. And they plan to do it all under one renovated roof.
Renovations came with a pretty hefty price tag, but one Midland couple is confident they'll soon be celebrating opening night.
"This theatre has not been opened in a theatre type environment in many, many years," Martha Dunham, said.
The Ritz Theatre has seen and been a lot of things since the 1930's, most recently a dance club. But, if Martha and her husband Joe get their wish, it will be more like it once was.
"Cinema, live productions, music concerts, our possibilities are limitless and that's going to be our number one priority, in developing the theatre," Dunham explained.
Developing the theatre will mean some serious tear down and rebuilding. The plan is to get it to look as much like the original, as possible.
According to Dunham, "We're going to try and recreate the effect of what it looked like in 1936."
The Dunhams say The Ritz will be more intimate than the existing community theatres in Midland, seating about 300 people. That increases it's appeal to one group in particular.
"Martha and Joe Dunham have been kind enough to offer us, to offer Mavericks, the position as their theatrical tenants. We're very excited about that. We're going to have a bigger stage, for one thing. We're going to design wings and actual dressing rooms, something we didn't have before," Mary Lou Cassidy, Executive Director for The Maverick Players, said.
The Ritz will have a satellite receiver and will be able to present live concerts and operas from the Met in New York. There will also be a modern HD projection system to play back some classics of the silver screen.
"I would love to be able to do a classic film festival, in conjunction with Celebration of the Arts, next year," Dunham added.
City leaders and businesses are all on board with the project, since it ties in so well with plans to spruce up downtown.
According to Joe Dunham, who also owns Señor Frogs on Main Street, "We've kind of taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, and we see an opportunity to have a great neighbor with The Ritz Theatre, re-opening."
With a cost of almost $1 million, and an opening date of November 1st, Martha Dunham says they are definitely crunched for time, "That's going to be a very tight schedule to get that done. But we feel like it's important enough to get it done."
The Ritz already has a board of directors in place and when it's complete, will have a paid staff of 4-5 people, that includes technical positions and an executive director.