Marquee Returns To Gowanda Hollywood Theater

Showtime Again

Workers place the marquee on the Gowanda Hollywood Theater last month. Submitted photo

GOWANDA — As Gowanda’s Hollywood Theater progresses in its renovation, the historic marquee on the theater was just recently put back on the theater.

After three years of being away, the marquee returned to its rightful home after restoration. However, according to Mark Burr, the President of the Hollywood Theater Board, the project wasn’t supposed to take nearly that long.

“I was ecstatic to get it back. We thought it would be gone for six to nine months,” Burr said. “But COVID hit and one thing led to another and getting parts and pieces we needed became very difficult.”

Among the parts that were difficult to get were controllers to flash bulbs, which had to be bought from a man in Utah, the red paint for the marquee, which was difficult to obtain because PPG ran out of the purple dye needed to make the paint, but the hardest thing to scrounge for where special lighting sockets.

“We needed around 500 of these sockets,” Burr said. “They cost $1.69. At the beginning, we’d call up a vendor and buy them in bags of 500. The factory making those parts in China was repurposed to make PPE so they quit making those parts.”

“One of our board members called every lighting manufacturer in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Chicago, New York and we’d get 25 sockets from one place, 25 from another and so on until we got the 500 we needed,” Burr continued. “We scraped every shelf for everything we thought might work. What was $1.69 became $5.69, it was horrifically expensive.”

Burr said they had to go back to the drawing board a number of times, just to get the marquee restored and back affixed to the theater.

“The whole restoration and return of the marquee are a whole litany of stories like that and things you think you could easily get and were easy when we started,” Burr said. “We had to dig and scrape and be very patient.”

Now that it’s reaffixed, the next step is making sure that the restorations and electrical work survived the trip. Burr said the hope is to have the lights on for Christmas in Gowanda event today, and to have Mayor Dave Smith give a speech in front of the lights next week, but that’s saying everything works as planned.

“We have a couple days’ worth of wiring and programming and things of that sort,” Burr said. “There is lots of electronic stuff inside the marquee, and we have to see how well it made the trip. We saw it working in the shop, but we don’t know if it all survived the trip.”

As far as restoration of the theater itself, $5 million has been spent on the project thus far. Burr said about $1 million remains to spend, including improvements to the stage itself, and the restoration of a 1923 organ, on top of finishing the installation of the marquee. But the completion of the theater is in the final stretch, and the marquee being placed back where it belongs is a large indicator of that.

“We’re absolutely in the final stretch,” said Burr. “We can better utilize the theater, schedule shows. The only thing hanging over people’s heads now are pandemic restrictions.”


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