The Restoration of The Ritz
The Ritz Theatre originally opened in 1935 just six months after construction had begun. It was built primarily as a movie house with a line-up of vaudeville acts and road shows to add variety to the entertainment available to the patrons.
The interior was designed using the art deco style popular in the 1920's and 1930's. It incorporated bright colors and bold geometrical patterns in the motif. Its original wool carpet contained seven colors and was specially ordered from Belgium to add an air of class and distinction.
During the 50's and 60's Martin Theaters modernized the Ritz by changing the decor in keeping with interior design popular at the time. Burlap canvas was glued to the walls to make it more suitable for movie presentations. The stage was left in tact but a new movie screen consumed most of it with only a narrow strip left in front of the screen - thus live performances were forgotten.
Over time, the beautiful carpet became soiled and the art deco moldings and accents were painted over. Before long there was very little left of what the Ritz was designed to be.
By the mid 70's the Ritz was closed for business and was left abandoned and in poor repair. Enter Roberta Gamble.
Known to everyone as Miss Bobbie, the former Greenville High School drama teacher took the old building into her heart, not only as a historic landmark in downtown Greenville, Alabama, but as a facility that could be used to perpetuate something she holds dear - the performing arts.
Through the dedication and leadership of Miss Bobbie and a group of local arts enthusiasts, the GAAC was organized in 1982.
This groups dream became reality when the city agreed to purchase the theatre for $75,000. In addition to the purchase price, the city also pitched in another $63,000 for a new roof, new stage hangings, an extension of the stage and renovations to the dressing rooms. Restoration of the Ritz was done as a labor of love. By using city funding, lots of volunteer labor, writing grants, the Ritz was reborn.