Overhaul of historic Anderson theater delayed, but still in progress

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Plans to reopen the historic State Theatre in downtown Anderson have hit a snag, but that's not stopping the new owners from their original plan to bring people downtown.

"The snag is we do not currently have heating or cooling in the building, which was supposed to be installed prior to us taking possession of the building," said Brent Doster, co-owner of MadCo Entertainment, LLC., an Anderson-based entertainment company buying the building.

Doster said $35,000 in renovations were made in 2017, but work was halted late last year until the heating-and-cooling system was addressed.

"Unfortunately, nothing has been completed on that end as of yet," Doster said. "We are processing things in a positive direction and have had several good conversations with the current owner."

He said they are hoping to have a resolution within the next 30 to 60 days and be able to "get back to work aggressively at that point."

Doster and his partner, Branden Holder, had hoped to reopen the theater at 1303 Meridian St. as an event center after they signed a lease-to-own agreement in 2017.

Originally opened in 1930, the State Theatre has had various individuals and organizations seeking to restore it since its closure in 2008. Doster and Holder say they plan to preserve historical aspects of the building while bringing people to the downtown area with comedians, events and musicians.

MadCo Entertainment is already lining up entertainment with three classic rock performances in July that were moved down the street to the Paramount Theatre, which opened in 1929 and underwent its own restoration in the mid-1990s. Killer Queen: The Premier Tribute to Queen; Pink Dryod: The North American Pink Floyd Concert; and An Evening with Uli Jon Roth are scheduled July 13-15.

"We did not want to jeopardize those shows with the uncertainty of whether or not those renovations would be made by the summer," Doster said. "Just as a protection to ourselves and our ticket buyers, we moved it up to the Paramount. That's their slow season and they don't typically do any shows at all during the summer so it was a win-win to partnership with them."

Randal Hammel, executive director of the Paramount Theatre Centre & Ballroom, is happy to partner with MadCo Entertainment.

"Their venue isn't ready to go yet," he said. "It's taking a lot longer than they thought it would to do. But we are working together to get things happening downtown."

Hammel said MadCo Entertainment contacted him prior to the holidays last year about using the Paramount for their summer events.

"We are both theaters, but definitely different venues," he said. "They aren't big enough to do the symphony and we are not set up to contract with bands.

"This will be the first time we have ever done anything like this."

Hammel said even after the State Theatre opens they hope to continue working with MadCo Entertainment to bring entertainment to downtown Anderson.

Doster said working with the Paramount is an ideal situation.

"There are a lot of artists that just aren't going to be a good fit for what we are doing here and so instead of turning them away, it was a much better idea for us to form a partnership with the Paramount," Doster said. "That way we still maintain relationship with the artists, the Paramount gets to make some nice money on a weekend and they don't have to book the artists."

MadCo Entertainment will begin making payments on the State Theatre to purchase the building once repairs to the heating and cooling system are made, Doster said.

"Because they haven't provided the building to us in the proper condition, we don't have to pay," he said.

Despite promises on the State Theatre marquee to open in 2017 and then the spring of 2018, Doster says there is no hard date for an opening.

"It really is dependent on when the new heating and cooling system is installed and then once that is installed, when we can knock out everything," he said. "We have made some contingency plans to use a smaller section of our venue for some small shows."

He said the contingency plans would allow them to entertain an audience of 300 instead of 1,500 and push forward any opening dates.

"I'm a lifetime resident of Anderson and — for me — it's about creating a place where multiple generations of Andersonians can walk through the door and have a shared experience," Doster said.

He said like all businesses, sometimes plans work exactly the way they are intended and other times — "maybe not so much."

For now the marquee at the State Theatre reads simply, "Coming 2018."

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