By the end of July, The Loft Cinema will boast a new marquee, though the updates may actually look old to longtime residents. With the new "Light Up the Loft" fundraising campaign, The Loft Cinema plans to restore their marquee to its former, taller size, while still maintaining a retro aesthetic.
"Movie theaters don't really have marquees any more, so ours is a really big deal to us," said Jeff Yanc, program director of The Loft Cinema. "Any time we have filmmakers stop by or touring through, they kind of freak out when they see it."
The fundraiser takes place on Saturday, June 29 with a special screening of the Woodstock documentary. The Oscar-winning 1970 documentary chronicles the legendary music festival from both onstage and in the crowd. The event works as a double-celebration, for the 50th anniversaries of both Woodstock and The Loft's construction.
The Loft Cinema's marquee was also constructed in 1969, the same year as the theatre's current location. When they added a second movie screen in 1972, they also added a second panel to the top of the marquee. This two-panel marquee stood for 30 years, before a monsoon damaged the top panel in 2002.
For the 17 years since this incident, The Loft has persisted with their single-panel marquee, which can get quite cluttered, especially now that they have three movie screens and regularly show special screenings along with cult classics and other one-offs. These days, the theatre shows a lot more movies in a given week than when the theater was in previous hands, according to Yanc.
"There really is a desire to return it to how it used to be," Yanc said. "The marquee is our most iconic feature. There's no markings on our actual building that say 'Loft Cinema,' the marquee plays that role. So there's a real emotional connection some people have."
Yanc says the restoration project holds a kind of "Back to the Future" ethos, in that they're updating the marquee to its former brilliance. But the connection goes further than this; as part of their commitment to sustainability, The Loft will use the opportunity to change the marquee's lights from incandescent to LED.
"We're looking to the future by making it more eco-friendly, but we're still keeping the retro design," Yanc said.
The restoration, which will see a second panel added on top of the current one, will increase the marquee from roughly 20 to 30 feet tall. While signs of the marquee's size are no longer permitted to be built on Speedway, The Loft is grandfathered in.
In total, refurbishing and expanding the marquee is expected to cost around $60,000. Yanc hopes the fundraiser will cover most, if not all, of this price.
The documentary screening also includes a silent auction related to both Woodstock and The Loft. Auction items include an original 1970 Woodstock movie poster, a rental of a Loft room to screen a movie of your choice, and your name on the new marquee. But possibly the most exciting auction item is the opportunity to flip the switch on the inaugural marquee lighting.
"Since at least 2002, the marquee has served as The Loft Cinema's logo," said Loft Cinema executive director Peggy Johnson. "The marquee is The Loft Cinema." ■