Historic theater reopens, long road ahead

    (WCYB/Caleb Perhne)

    Elizabethton’s historic Bonnie Kate Theater opened its doors this weekend for the first time in four months, but it still has a long road ahead.

    The city purchased the theater in 2016 on behalf of a local nonprofit with the goal of repairing and restoring it as a centerpiece of the community. Safety issues forced them to close in October, but the public is back to watch classic movies again.

    Mildred Mosely was born in 1926, the same year the theater opened.

    "It was really nice. That was about the only entertainment we had in Elizabethton,” Mosely said.

    The theater got a new roof in October, but when duct work inside fell, they were forced to close.

    "We've been working since that time to get that section back up, get the rest of the system checked, make sure it's safe,” Bonnie Kate restoration group member Jeff Treadway said.

    People coming back to the Bonnie Kate saw new flooring in the lobby, a renovated concession stand and seating now bolted to the floor. That's a temporary measure for fire safety until a sprinkler system is added.

    There's still a long road ahead for the theater. They still need a new floor, permanent seating and a new stage. The curtains are torn, and the upstairs is unsafe but they can now host events as they work toward creating a community arts center.

    "If we have something like that, it could be a destination for people to come downtown and stay, enjoy our restaurant and our shops,” Treadway said.

    To reach that goal, the group still needs $1.2 million. They've only raised $50,000 thus far. With matching grants available, they're hopeful for the future.

    "It's nice that we're working to keep things instead of tearing everything down just because it's old,” Paula Whitman said.

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