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Lufkin Pines Theater

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The life of the Pines Theater began on September 9, 1925. Following speeches from local prominent businessmen E.L. Kurth, Kester Denman, I.A. Coston, and I.D. Fairchild, movie-goers were treated to the theater's first movie, "Coast of Folly", starring Gloria Swanson. Organ music was provided by Willie Frazier, who also sold tickets at the theater. The average cost of an afternoon spent in the cool dark enjoying a movie was about 25 cents. The Lufkin Amusement Company, which later became East Texas Theaters, was the first owner and the first manager was Non Binion. Throughout its life, the theater was the cityís entertainment center, a downtown landmark where thousands of people from the area spent an afternoon together, chasing bad guys with Roy Rogers, experiencing epics like Gone with the Wind and Giant, or watching out for a great white shark. Although there were other theaters in the downtown district, the Pines was the premiere theatre and, ďThe Place To BeĒ.

 


In 1981, the Pinesí last Manager, Ray Pike, had the facility refurbished. These were to be the last updates to the theater until it was sold by owner Elliot Cavanaugh in 1984, at which time it was used as a house of worship for the Covenant of Love Outreach. The theater was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1988. It continued as a church until approximately 2005 and then remained vacant until 2007, when the City of Lufkin purchased the theater.


When city officials entered the building for the first time, it was discovered that the roof had collapsed and standing water had collected in the orchestra pit area in the main auditorium. A pump system was set up to remove all the standing water and the failing roof was replaced to stop the water from causing further damage. The theater seating was removed and cleanup of the filth, mold, and odor caused by the water began. An additional French drain was constructed in the theaterís boiler room and the orchestra pit area in the front of the stage was filled in with concrete to eliminate ground water seepage. During this time, a truck  struck and had badly damaged the marquee of the theater. It was decided to have the marquee repaired and bring the front of the Pines back to life. The City spent several months replacing Neon, cleaning tiles, reworking the sidewalk and installing bollards to prevent the repaired and refurbished marquee from being damaged again. Over the next three years, the city consulted with a community advisory group and other similar facilities across the state and developed plans for demolition, construction and design. After extensive research and input, the interior was demolished and reconstruction began. Plumbing and electrical work were some of the first upgrades, followed by the removal of walls throughout the facility.

 

Some historical surprises were discovered as crews worked on the theater. For instance, arch brick work that apparently was part of the theaterís original design was discovered following the removal of the main auditorium walls. Further, as crews removed sections of concrete flooring to install new plumbing and electrical work, a staircase which may have gone to a coal bin was also discovered. The Theaterís new duct work for heating and cooling was completed and a new mechanical room was installed.

 

 


Two projectors and supporting equipment were removed from the theater and refurbished by city employees. The projectors were then returned to the reconstructed projector room and are on display to the public.
Visitors can now get a look at what once may have been considered the heart of the theater through a large window added to back of the room.

 Scaffolding was erected that created a complete walking platform which allowed workers easier access to install new ceiling in the auditorium. The arch work discovered during demolition was cleaned and sealed and acoustical material was placed between to add both beauty and sound functionality.


Because the theater has been redesigned as a multi-purpose facility, some new areas were developed. An additional staircase and a reception platform were installed in what was once an adjoining clothing store. Also, in the main auditorium, a concrete platform serves not only as a place for the sound and lighting technicians, but also provides room to place tables and chairs as an additional reception area.


Stage lighting and professional sound equipment were put in along with a new projection screen. The Dressing Rooms were completely refurbished and Green Room facilities were added behind the stage area to provide preparation areas for the variety of entertainment performers that will appear at the Pines.


The entrance, or concession area, has been refurbished to accommodate a variety of functions. All of the new restroom facilities and most of the building itself has been made accessible for those with disabilities. Office space, a mechanical room, and additional restrooms are part of the upstairs area, along with the Projector Room Display area and balcony seating.


Theater seating was one of the last major items to be placed within the auditorium area.
Although it has many modern upgrades, the art-deco charm and beauty of the original Pines Theater has been brought back to life. Following years of community input, staff research, demolition and reconstruction The Pines Theater is once again the focus and heart of the flourishing downtown district.