Robins Theatre owner, promoter provide a glimpse of future
By Ed Runyan
Mark Marvin and Ken Haidaris opened their “Grande Dame,” the Robins Theatre, to reporters and others Tuesday to show how the rehabilitation project is progressing.
The 1923-built Robins, which has 1,400 seats, marble columns, grand staircases and an ornate ceiling, is where generations of people watched movies and saw live performances.
But the Robins hasn’t been used since 1974, and it took a month just to put it back into presentable shape so people could walk through and see the potential.
The stage has a hole in it from a leak in the ceiling, and the building was cold and a little dusty.
But when Marvin of the Downtown Development Group, the building’s new owner, described the two-year project, it started to seem possible. Work is underway to replace the seats and restore the heating, plumbing and electrical components, stage, curtains, basement dressing rooms and concession areas.
“We have quite an undertaking here, but it’s not quite as bad as everybody thinks it is,” Marvin said from a podium on the stage. Behind him was a wall that is nearly fixed. “The guts of this place are pretty good. The structure is fantastic,” he said.
One set of steps to the stage will be removed and replaced with two other sets. The orchestra pit will be covered, and the stage will be enlarged, he said.
“We’re actually restoring the stage to what it was it was originally like back in 1923,” Marvin said.
Other parts will be renovated so it brings back memories from other generations, such as the old-style marquee out front, which will probably be modernized with LED lighting but will look most like the marquee from the 1950s.
Through the project’s Facebook page and www.Robinstheatre.com website, the public will be kept informed of the renovation and invited to show up in about a month to help remove the 1,400 seats so they can be restored. They will be covered in red, crushed velvet.
Supporters will be invited to sponsor a seat, meaning their support will be shown on a plaque on the seat.
Haidaris, president of Sunrise Entertainment, said the Robins project will continue the increased interest in live shows that his company books and promotes called River Rock at The Amp at the downtown amphitheater.
He said his company will book live performances at the Robins “where we will have 12 or 14 Saturday nights in the summer. We want to have about 200 dates a year here, and those will be anywhere from comedians, music acts, art shows, dance studios, anything you can imagine.”
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said it will also be a mixed-use venue that will be attractive to the local performing arts community and education community.
Dennis Blank, a recent Warren mayoral candidate who grew up in the city and recently returned after working in the publishing industry, said the Robins was just one of many downtown destinations for him when he was growing up.
“We took the buses downtown. We’d gather in small mobs, and we just roamed around downtown,” he said of the 1960s.
Warren Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold is younger than Blank and only remembers the Robins from her earliest childhood.
“I came here to see ‘Mary Poppins’” she said.