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Author, TV producer adds voice to Columbia

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

Movie stars and other celebrities lend their reputations to a variety of causes around the world. Their voices usually go farther than others without a high-profile career.

This week, a well-known TV producer and author put his face on Paducah's fight to restore the Columbia Theatre, and organizers are hoping it will give a lift to fundraising efforts.

Andy Wiggins, a Maiden Alley Cinema board member, left western Kentucky to move to Los Angeles earlier this week. On his way to Hollywood, he stopped in Santa Fe, N.M., to sit down with George R.R. Martin, author of the books that spawned the TV hit "Game of Thrones." Martin, who now lives in Santa Fe, spent over a half-hour with Wiggins to support Paducah's efforts to restore the Columbia.

Martin played a big part in the renovations of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, buying the theater, which had been closed for seven years, and bringing it back to life. It reopened as an independent movie theater in 2013. Martin greeted movie goers and took ticket stubs at its grand opening.

The Columbia Club now owns the Columbia Theatre. The downtown, 1920s-era building located at 502 Broadway was once a hub for live theater productions. Through the years it evolved into a popular multiplex movie theater, closing its doors in 1987.

Renovations to the theater are estimated to cost about $5.8 million. The renovations would allow for a 250-seat main auditorium along with a larger lobby with more extensive amenities.

Upstairs, the mezzanine would be split into two screening areas, one with 140 seats and another with 114. The plans add an elevator for upstairs access, cut backstage space and expand bathrooms. The club's goal is to have the Columbia rehabilitated and renovated by 2017, in time for the theater's 90th birthday.

Wiggins emailed Martin in early March on a whim and was surprised to hear back from the author about two days later. They talked, and Wiggins set up his trip to New Mexico.

"I told him we were trying to resurrect the theater," Wiggins said. "I believe personally in the value of not only the architecture, but what a three-screen independent cinema could do for Paducah. I knew that he had experience and hoped he would be a willing ally in our fight."

Wiggins taped the interview and also spent time with Jean Cocteau Cinema manager Jon Bowman, who elaborated on the benefits an independent theater could have on a city. Wiggins described Martin as passionate; he not only took the literature on the Columbia but read and studied it.

"People are clamoring for information about this man and his work, people far outside of Paducah," Wiggins said. "This could reach a lot of people, and it would help us simply because of his involvement. If we can get the interest in the Columbia to be larger than just the region, we'd have a much higher probability of success."

Maiden Alley Cinema Executive Director and Columbia Club member Landee Bryant said the club will use the interview footage to help with potential donors.

"We're going to use the footage almost anywhere that we can," Bryant said. "People tend to pay more attention to what someone with a big name has to say, but he's also helped to restore a theater similar to ours."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

Comments made about this article - 1 Total

Mayor Gayle Kaler posted on: Saturday, May 03, 2014 5:26 PM

Title: Author,TV producer adds voice to Columbia Theatre project

Andy Wiggins is to be commended on a proactive approach by visiting a very well respected producer of one of the most popular mini series on HBO, Game of Thrones. His experience with a similar project will be valuable for the Columbia renovation. Good work Coulmbia Club.

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