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Lexington mayor hands keys to Kentucky Theatre to new group

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Posted at 3:29 PM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 17:41:59-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The doors have been shut for nearly one year due to the pandemic, and during that time, The Kentucky Theatre lost its management group.

"When you have to close your business, many times, the owners won't want to open back up," said Fred Mills. Mills, the longtime manager of the theatre, is known as "Mr. Kentucky." He will continue to run the theatre under new management.

On Friday, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton stood under the theatre marquee and announced her desire to have the group "Friends of the Kentucky Theatre" assume control of the operation.

"Fortunately, the Friends of The Kentucky [Theatre] had been thinking a day like this might happen," Mills said of the group's preparedness to take over.

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They hope to reopen on December 1, and there are big plans for the venue's future. They'd like to add live musical performances, skew their movie selections to a younger generation, and the big one could establish the city as a destination for the arts.

"With at least seven screening locations in and around downtown Lexington, we think Lexington is ripe for an international film festival," said board member Hayward Wilkirson.

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The plan is to offer annual memberships and continue operating as a non-profit organization. As with any annual or seasonal membership, the more you go, the more cost-effective it'll be, and that'll create a ripple effect on the downtown area as a whole.

"When I used to go here, I ate out before coming to the theatre. So it will drive economic impact," Gorton said.

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That impact has been lost for nearly a year. In October 2020, the theatre had to go dark as the pandemic became too much of a burden to manage.

"It's a very good feeling," Mills said of the prospect of a December 1 reopening.