The Holly Theatre in Medford, built in 1930, was southern Oregon’s first true movie palace. Over the decades, it fell into disrepair and was once scheduled for demolition. Now, an eight-year effort to restore the theater to its former glory has taken a big leap.
Actor and comedian Jim Belushi used a gold-painted sledge hammer to bash a hole in the wall of the theater, marking the beginning of the renovation project. Along with Medford’s mayor and Chamber president, Belushi welcomed the project as marking the revitalization of a neglected part of the city.
"It’s going to bring vibrancy to the quiet end of town. It’s going to help anchor downtown as an arts destination, and today we start this project that will be a catalyst for business, jobs and joy."
Belushi is the campaign’s honorary chair. He lives in nearby Eagle Point.
Among the gathered crowd of more than a hundred, Medford resident Alice Thomsen recalled being in elementary school in 1962 and volunteering as an usher for the Disney film “Pollyanna.”
Thomsen says she’s thrilled to see the renovation get underway.
"It means a lot to me because I was here years ago when the Holly Theatre was very, very active," she said. "It was one of the busiest places in town and it really meant a lot to us."
The JPR Foundation is behind the nearly $9.5 million project. It’s using private investment, tax credits, a state grant and money raised from the community to launch the renovation. But about $3.5 million remains to be raised.
When it’s complete, the Holly will be the largest indoor concert and event venue between Eugene and Redding, with more than a thousand seats.