Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:01 PM
Photo by Tauren Dyson. The Old Greenbelt Theatre received at $75,000 grant from Partners in Preservation. It was the only site in Prince George’s County, and one of 24 in the D.C. region, to compete for up to $100,000 in grant funding.
Published on: Friday, June 07, 2013
On May 13, the Old Greenbelt Theatre received a $75,000 grant as a part of the Partners in Preservation program, a partnership between American Express and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The theater opened in 1939, not long after the federal government established the city of Greenbelt. Designed as an experiment during The New Deal, the plan for the city was to promote community living and many in the area view the Old Greenbelt Theatre as the centerpiece of that process.
The Old Greenbelt Theatre is the only site in Prince George’s County, and one of 24 in the Washington, D.C., region, to compete for up to $100,000 in grants from the program. Ultimately, only five sites in the region received funding.
The Partners for Presentation program has been donating grants since 2006, and every year it chooses different a metropolitan area in which to hold its contest. The D.C. region was the eighth to be selected.
After Celia Craze, Greenbelt director of planning and community development, got the ball rolling by applying to participate in the competition, other groups promoted the theater’s involvement in the program and helped to generate votes.
“We were just so excited to be right up there, in the top level with Mount Vernon and the National Cathedral,” said Megan Searing-Young, Greenbelt Museum director. “You’d run into people in the center of town and they would say, ‘Did you vote today?’”
Searing-Young publicized and promoted the Old Greenbelt Theatre bid during the online voting process for the competition using social media.
“This theater, with the marquee and the art deco styling of it, just speaks to people,” Searing-Young said. “This community really rallied around its own theater.”
Searing-Young said Old Greenbelt Theatre is in desperate need of repairs to its art deco facade, lobby, plumbing, and an update for handicap accessibility. The theater boasts one of the largest screens in the region, which still screens movies with film. But due to an industry shift to digital, Old Greenbelt Theatre will need money to make that transition in order to stay competitive.
In addition to the $75,000 from Partners in Preservation, the city of Greenbelt has already received $800,000 from other grants, which is close to the number needed for a full renovation.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Theatre have also been actively involved in the renovation process, using Facebook and Twitter to encourage people to vote for the theater to receive funding.
“You had to vote every single day or else you were going to drop off in the competition,” said Justin Baker, Friends of the Greenbelt Theater co-manager.
Baker thinks Old Greenbelt is such an important place because of its charm and contrast to the larger, less personal theaters.
“You go to multiplexes, and it kind of feels like a theme park,” Baker said.
However, with programs such as the Utopain Film Festival in October, Baker thinks that theme, and the theaters vision overall represents a slice of life in Prince George’s that makes Greenbelt unique.
“We screen different films that explore the different definitions of utopia,” Baker said. “One of those definitions is community cohesiveness and community diversity.”