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Cook Group to restore southern Indiana movie theater

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A southern Indiana town's dilapidated 1920s movie theater could soon be restored to its former glory.

Bloomington-based medical device maker Cook Group announced Tuesday it would restore the 750-seat Tivoli Theatre in downtown Spencer, which was boarded up in 1999, four years after it was ravaged by fire. Spencer is about 55 miles southwest of Indianapolis, in Owen County.

Company spokesman David McCarty told The Herald Times of Bloomington that it wasn't clear how much renovating the theater, which opened in 1928, would cost because the project was still being evaluated.

"Like all Cook restoration projects, it's not about the money," he said.

The theater, an endangered property under the protection of Indiana Landmarks, is owned by Owen County Preservations, which bought it in 2005 to prevent a scheduled demolition.

The project will be overseen by George Ridgway, the same construction manager who oversaw the Cook-led restoration of the French Lick Springs Resort, West Baden Springs Hotel and the Old Centrum Church in Indianapolis..

Construction may start as early as May and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Ridgway is studying historic photographs to help return the theater to the grandeur it offered moviegoers when it opened on New Year's Eve in 1928 with the Gary Cooper film "Shopworn Angel."

Eighty-three-year-old Patsy Powell of rural Gosport went to the Tivoli to see "Rhapsody in Blue" when she was a little girl, and returned there in 1946 on a date with her future husband.

She said nail heads pounded through the back-lit ceiling made it look like there were stars overhead. "It was romantic," she said.

Ridgway said he hopes to re-create those starry skies with tiny LED lights.

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