Fitzgerald’s Grand Theater Under Renovation

What many people refer to as the 'crown jewel' of Fitzgerald is in the process of being renovated.

The Grand Theatre is used for plays, movies, conferences, and even wedding receptions.

“I remember as a child coming here to The Grand,” smiled General Manager of the Grand Center Complex, Clark Jones.

For many who grew up in Ben Hill or Irwin County, the Grand Theatre brings great memories.

“It truly was The Grand,” explained Jones. “It was the meeting place for a lot of people.”

Decorations inside shows just how long the Grand Theatre has been a central point in Fitzgerald.

It was originally built as the Grand Opera House in the early 1900s, but it burned down in 1934.

“Of course this was during the depression era, and people would go to the movies a lot during that time, so they were demanding that their Theatre be built back,” said Jones.

It was then that the Martin Theatre Group took over the building and reconstructed it in art-deco style that you can see still in the theatre today.

The theatre even has a unique instrument inside that coincides with the art-deco style.

The Grand is home to one of very few Barton Organs still around.

The city of Fitzgerald got the organ in 2012. Then, it was was reconstructed by a company in Atlanta, but it still has the original pipes.

It’s that style, current manager of the Grand Center Complex Clark Jones, is trying to bring back.

Jones performed on the stage in the 80’s with the “Community Players.”

“It’s been a part of my life all of my life, and at this point, at 63, to be able to come into it for what I consider to be a long-awaited renovation to the deco style is truly an honor for me,” said Jones.

In the 2017 SPLOST budget, the city approved $200,000 to go towards renovating the theatre. The floors have been re-done and the sign is at the shop getting a revamp, but Jones said he has greater plans to make this a regional theatre for people all over Southwest Georgia to enjoy.

“I remember how it once was here many many years ago and I look at what it’s going to become, and it is very exhilarating and I am so pleased of knowing I’m going to be in that future,” said Jones.

Jones said he expects to have all the renovations complete in the next few years.

He is also looking at bringing a film festival to the area in the future.