Appell Center completes $2M Capitol Theatre renovation, keeps 'classic feel'
Despite gutting the balcony, installing new seats and adding a concession stand, staffers say the historic Capitol Theatre will have a familiar charm for returning patrons when it reopens this month after six months of construction.
"People love the classic feel of it; we didn't want to mess with that," said Todd Fogdall, president and CEO of the Appell Center for the Performing Arts.
The $2 million project will be unveiled Wednesday, Oct. 24. An evening performance by rock band Low Cut Connie will kick off an expected 125 performances by the end of the fiscal year in June, he said.
Capitol Theatre hadn't had a full-scale renovation since the 1960s, when it and the neighboring Strand Theatre, now both under the Appell Center's control, were still solely used as movie theaters, Fogdall said.
The renovation was centered around audience comfort while repairing and improving artistic elements already in place, he said.
One major change is the balcony, which was torn down to its original form and completely redone.
The original balcony was created for movie screenings and wasn't ideal for viewing stage productions, Fogdall said.
New platforms were put in place at new angles, with a contractor specifically noting sight lines from each row, director of marketing Rebecca Fellin said.
"There's not a bad seat, no matter where you are," Fogdall said.
For the upcoming season, certain performances allow audience members to choose a seat. Before the renovation, performances were general admission.
Looking out into the audience from the stage, Fogdall said one would guess there are about 200 seats in the theater. In fact, he said, the Capitol Theatre is more than double that size with 450 seats.
It creates an intimate experience for the audience and performers alike, Fogdall said.
The theater's seats also were replaced, this time with more legroom.
Previously, if patrons were 6-foot-1, they "almost couldn't' sit," Fogdall said.
The new seats have another added bonus — cup holders.
Audience members can bring in snacks and drinks that they can pick up from the renovated concession stand, which Fogdall called one of the most major improvements.
Prior to the renovation, there was no central concession stand, he said. Tables on either side of the lobby sold soda or beer or snacks, but concessions weren't available all at one location.
The new concession stand reduces congestion and streamlines the process, Fogdall said.
The stand also serves a dual purpose by placing a barrier between the theater and the glass doors leading out to North George Street; it supplies a "sound and light lock" that was lacking from the theater's original design, he said.
Another major update took place in the downstairs restrooms, Fogdall said.
He called the previous restrooms "old" and "not welcoming." The revamped restrooms have new plumbing, mirrors and counters.
There is also a new ADA-compliant restroom on the theater level.
While the stage was mainly left as is, throughout the theater "aesthetically, everything is improved," Fogdall said.
The ornate details along the ceiling weren't changed, but the repairs and fresh paint help the architectural details pop, Fellin, the marketing director, said.
"I notice things I had never noticed before," she said.
Another decorative addition will welcome Yorkers back as soon as they enter the theater.
Chelsea Foster, a local artist, is painting a design on the mirrored concession stand wall that pays homage to the Capitol Theatre's nearly century-old history.
It will be a modernized version of a Capitol Theatre ad from the 1920s that still rings true today, Fellin said.
It reads, "Our true intent is all for your delight."