The Georgia Theatre is back.
The Georgia Theatre is back!
A sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 people showed up at the grand re-opening as two local music acts took the stage to welcome the monumental building back to life.
Before the doors were opened, staff members were seen having a last second debriefing on how to handle the crowd. Bartenders hustled to get their drinking stations in order while sound technicians tweaked at their switchboards, making last minute audio adjustments.
Owner Wilmot Greene could be seen pacing around the theatre restlessly, giving instructions to staff here and there and handing out keys to the new doors.
The building isn’t all the way new, though, and remnants of the old Georgia Theatre are definitely present in the rebuilt version.
The walls are still the original brickwork that was laid back in 1889, and some of the nuts and bolts from the old building have been worked into the interior design.
The smoke-stained walls are still imperfect, but new red curtains cloak the Theatre like a new Sunday suit.
Upstairs is a three-tier, opera-style balcony and a rooftop restaurant that overlooks downtown Athens.
Behind the balcony is a room full of photographs taken by locals Justin Evans, Ryan Myers and David Manning during the rebuild process.
Carol Martin, an Athens resident since 1974 who spent many nights at the Georgia Theatre during its “pre-fire” days, was the first official ticket holder to get in the doors Monday.
“It is definitely new and improved,” said Martin. “I remember it used to be really grimy and there were only like two ladies restrooms in the old place. Now they have about 15!”
After attendees were let in, the balcony was the first to fill up, and people gathered on the rooftop bar for a pre-show drink and to take in the view of downtown. As the opener took the stage, the slanted floor was quickly packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder for the show.
Video crews were set up all around the inside to capture the historic reopening on film.
By the time The Glands took the stage, the place was packed and moving around was almost impossible. Before they cranked up the volume, Greene grabbed a microphone to say thanks.
“There’s a lot of people to thank, but the most important people to thank are all of you,” Greene said as he pointed to the crowd. “I hope you all are really happy, and I hope you’re comfortable. And I hope you come back…..a lot.”
The crowd was a melting pot of sorts, with attendees ranging in age from their early 20s to their 60s, maybe 70s. There were all kinds of local folks, from hipsters to preps, clean-shavers to weird beards and crew cuts to crazy up-dos.
The atmosphere was chill, thanks partly to the huge propeller-like ceiling fans that hang from the roof, but also thanks to the good-spirited vibe that filled the place.
Athenian Joe Smith wrote on the Georgia Theatre’s Facebook page after the show, “Freaking awesome building, excellent sound, good staff, and wicked smoked pork…I love the new building. The rooftop is an absolute hit! Can't wait to see the place bumping with a serious show! May God Bless the Ga. Theater.”