After many years of fundraising, millions of dollars in restoration costs, and broad community involvement, the Lyric theater is set to reopen by the end of this year. The Lyric has a rich history and will celebrate its centennial this December. Mind you, for many of those years the Lyric was closed.. still, it’s something to celebrate. People love the experience of taking a trip in time, back to the memories they first made as children. The frescoed decor and the faithfully recreated seating should please many, as should the locally produced stage acts, touring specials, and the simple fact that we’ve got a piece of history back. Brownwood once was home to a rich theater district, with 7 separate theaters and movie houses in operation during the Camp Bowie boom.
While many residents are excited to have the Lyric back, there are some who bemoan the fact that the Lyric is a performing arts center, and not a movie theater. The Examiner asked several pedestrians on Center Avenue what they thought. Early resident David McQueen stated “Oh god, you mean we wasted all that money for MUSICALS?!” before angrily storming off. Joanne Hill mentioned that her grandmother told her that the Lyric was actually a movie theater because nobody in Brownwood liked the arts. “They had to install a screen to stay open, but the Queen, the Gem, and the Bowie all had air conditioning. The Lyric was the theater she least enjoyed visiting.”
Owing to the Pavlovian avoidance of the arts and cultural events to many Brownwood residents, an idea-gathering trip was taken to Eastland. Eastland has restored the Majestic Theater downtown, screening classic films and first-run titles. Another downtown theater, also named the Lyric, has been restored and hosts stage events and community gatherings. This way, both sides will be happy.
This leads to problems though, as all the former theaters downtown are either now occupied by businesses or have been torn down over the years. Brownwood’s second foray into theater restoration would have to take place outside of the downtown district. Several investors have recently purchased the old movie theater at Commerce Square. This theater was most commonly called Cinema I and Cinema II during their operation, yet were officially named the Cinema Twins. This theater, much like the Lyric, has a lot of history behind it. Many memories were made at the Cinema Twins, yet few efforts were made to save the facility from being mothballed during the mid 1990s. Until now.
Cinema Twins will feature the original white screens that once graced patrons for decades, and the original 1970s wood paneling is being faithfully nailed to the walls oncemore. New ropes and hoists have been ordered from the San Antonio area, and moth damage to the curtains are at a minimum. The Cinema Twins hopes to have a “Pull back the curtain” fundraising ceremony in the near future. Stereophonic sound will echo in the halls of Cinema’s I and II. The current Dolby technology will be eschwed in favor of keeping Cinema Twins as much like the decades it served as possible.
Counting on community investment to save another theater just as the Lyric is almost complete may be a challenge. Grants are tapped out, and area businesses are wary of favoring the Cinema Twins due to their earlier support of the Lyric. However, unlike the Lyric, there is a clear benefit for Cinema Twins. There are people alive who still remember going to the box office after a day of shopping, hoping that the 50/50 chance of catching a good movie would work out in their favor.
The city of Early, however, eagerly awaits the Regal Heartland Stadium 8’s coming obsolescence and decades long abandonment, as it dies with the mall (much as Commerce Square died when the mall first came, before gentrification made it the place to shop in Brownwood oncemore) so that perhaps by 2060 they too can restore a former theater back to its glory days.
While the format of films has yet to be decided, residents can look forward to not one, but TWO choices of entertainment. It is thought that the Cinema Twins will operate as a dollar theater, showing older classic films in the analogue format. Adult films or burlesque shows may be screened once a week to recoup the costs of renovation, but those will only be screen in the ‘blue room’ and children will not be allowed to enter the area during these times.