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The Flor-Ala

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Living History: The Shoals Theatre

Living+History%3A+The+Shoals+Theatre
Whitney Veazey

The Shoals Theatre has been a staple in Florence since its opening on Oct. 21t, 1948. Sitting on 123 Seminary Street, the building holds history and stories of over 75 years. 

The theater progressed to changing its movies twice a week. It also allowed college students admission for only $1. 

The building was commissioned to be built by Louis Rosenbaum and cost a sum of about $400,000. He commissioned the firm Marr & Holman to design the theater for him. Many original items are still held in the theater, such as the elevator, which is no longer in use. The theater holds 1,344 seats, one of the biggest in the state, for its time. 

Some changes to the building have been made since its opening, most notably the marquee, whose letters had been slipping. 

As time went on, movies continued to be shown in the theater until Mar. 13, 1980, when the theater closed. The building sat vacant until 1997, when the Shoals Association of Ministers & Musicians bought the building. They renovated the building in hopes for the theater to in turn serve the community as a performing art and a Christian Education center. 

SAMM maintained the building until 2007, when the Shoals Community Theatre purchased the building. After their purchase, they began major renovations which started with an identical lighted Shoals sign, and further expanded the stage. 

Their intention was to completely restore the original sign, but they were unable to locate it. However, renovators were able to locate the original design of the sign and have it replicated. Funding was initially a problem, as they had just purchased the building, but an anonymous benefactor donated the sum they needed, so long as their name would never be released to the public. Even to this day, this promise has been kept. 

Shoals Theatre went on to finally have a full schedule for their reopening in 2011. As years have passed, they have gone on to host many notable names such as: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, The Alabama Shakes, The Civil Wars, Billy Bob Thornton, John Paul White and many more. The theater went on with a very impressive schedule until May 2016 when a fire started in the basement. The fire was able to be extinguished successfully, but not without water and fire damage. Staff began cleaning up and repairs immediately and were able to open their doors to the community again in the fall of the same year. 

The theater then went through another rough patch in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic happened. The theater was one of many businesses to shut down for the foreseeable future. 

“COVID taught us creativity in fundraising,” Shoals Theatre manager Steve Price said. 

Although the theater was hit hard, it eventually persevered and is now still very active in the community. It now operates as a nonprofit, with only the theater manager being paid.

“This theater is my baby, I love it dearly,” Price said.

The theater has evolved over the years, but that does not mean that its growth has stagnated. Price hopes that the theater can come to entertain the community even more. 

“I’d love to see it become multifaceted with something happening every week,” he said. “Business to a point that I could hire a staff.” 

The theater has many events coming up, including a showing of the film “Monster Inc.” on Sept. 28, the Zodiac Players’ “A Bright Star” from Oct. 19-22, The Gingerbread Players’ “A Christmas Story” from Nov. 16-19 and The Zodiac Players’ “A Few Good Men” on Jan. 21, 2024. Auditions from “A Few Good Men” will take place Oct. 28-29.

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About the Contributors
Amberly Brown
Amberly Brown, Former Staff Writer
Whitney Veazey
Whitney Veazey, Chief Photographer
Whitney is a sophomore from Greenville, Ala. She is working towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. Whitney started at The Flor-Ala in Fall 2022 as a staff writer/photographer and is currently serving as chief photographer.

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