Macon’s historic Capitol Theatre may be getting new owner

lmorris@macon.comMarch 27, 2014 

Macon’s urban development authority agreed Thursday to buy the historic Cox Capitol Theatre to ensure it remains an important downtown entertainment venue.

“Our hope is to make sure that the theater is on good standing and preserved for downtown,” said Alex Morrison, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.

The authority plans to buy the Capitol for a maximum price of $480,000, subject to terms and conditions to be finalized by authority Chairman Chris Sheridan and Morrison.

The theater property has been for sale since the fall, and in recent years it has undergone several management changes and faced some financial difficulties. A partnership called Capitol Theatre Fund LP currently owns the property.

Since 2013, The Moonhanger Group has managed the property, which has brought several well-known performers and movies to the venue.

“With it being listed for sale, we were concerned about the possibility of it going in a different direction and wanted to ensure that it does stay on the good clip it’s been on lately,” Morrison said.

The theater has operated as a nonprofit since it reopened eight years ago, he said.

“The public benefit is (having) a greatly improved downtown space and a historic building being preserved,” Morrison said. “The economic impact of having a theater has proven to be important. ... (It) has been a linchpin for downtown’s success since it reopened, and we hope that our action will ensure that that spillover benefit continues.”

The closing on the sale is expected to take place in 60 to 90 days, Sheridan said.

“This is going to be a big deal for Macon,” Sheridan said after Thursday’s meeting.

The sale is subject to terms of a lease being worked out, and Sheridan said he couldn’t say yet who the authority is working with to lease the historic theater at 382 Second St.

“There are lots of details to work out,” Sheridan said. “We anticipate, when this deal closes, the whole community is going to see the Capitol revitalized.”

Morrison said the lease would be with a private manager “who will take care of all the operations and maintenance.”

Authority member Gene Dunwody Jr. recused himself from the meeting before the closed session held to discuss the purchase. Dunwody was one of the people who worked to revitalize the building a decade ago.

Authority attorney Blake Sharpton agreed that several issues still need to be worked out before the deal can close, but he said it makes sense for the authority to buy the theater.

“It’s a key feature downtown, and it lines up with what the Urban Development Authority is designed to do,” Sharpton said.

The building was originally a bank built in the latter part of the 19th century, becoming the Capitol Theatre in 1917. The last film it showed was “The Black Godfather” in 1976.

For the most part, the theater was neglected and suffered a great deal of damage over the years.

In 2003, NewTown Macon purchased the building and renovations began to restore the theater. It reopened in 2006 as the Cox Capitol Theater.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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