Restoration of historic movie theater nears completion

Melba theater holds open house

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Tuesday night in downtown Batesville, crowds of people made their way to the movies.

Snacks and sodas were available at The Melba, but seating was limited.

"We had obviously standing room only because we don't have all our seats in yet," Janelle Shell joked. "But we had an awesome group of people that are just showing us their support."

Tuesday night, anyone interested in touring the old movie theater was invited to come out for a progress report on the restoration.

Since March 2015, the Shell and Curtwright families of Batesville have been restoring The Melba in an effort to bring it back to its former glory.

For those who attended, touring the theater was a chance to bring back old memories.

Many in attendance held their first job at The Melba. For some, it was even where they had their first kiss.

"One gentleman tonight said I can't wait for the balcony to be open and I said oh I hear that a lot!" Shell said. "People have all these balcony stories."

There were plans to open in December. However, Adam Curtwright explained that just didn't happen.

"We were kind of like Gilligan's Island at that point," Curtwright said. "What we thought was going to be a 3 hour tour turned into so much more."

The Melba is nearing completion now though.

Shell said there are just a few things left to do before they can open it back up.

She said she's glad to see so many Batesville and Independence County residents excited about its return.

"Theater is something that resonates with everyone," Shell said.

The group started a Kickstarter Fundraiser to finish raising money for the restoration.

Tuesday night though, $5,000 of their $20,000 goal was met in a surprise announcement from Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank explained to the crowd that they were investing in downtown Batesville through loans and grants.

The Citizens Bank Redevelopment Fund will consist of a $10 million low-interest rate loan fund to stimulate the economy downtown and promote historic downtown redevelopment.

It also consists of a $100,000 fund for cash grants to property owners, business owners and tenants in the downtown area.

The Melba Theater received the first grant of $5,000.

The new grand opening date is set for July 29. In the meantime, you can follow updates on the progress on their Facebook page.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

Watch Region 8 News On Demand: On your Desktop | On your Mobile device

Region 8 News App - Install or update on your: iPhone | Android