Built in 1911 as a 135-seat vaudeville house, the Grand added motion-picture entertainment first with silent movies and then "talkies.” In 1941, under the ownership of Chakeres Theatres, the Grand was converted to a then-modern 680-seat movie theatre. It boasted the first air conditioning system, which used ice to cool water and produce a cold mist carried through pipes.
The Grand Theatre was closed in 1966, and since then, the building has served a variety of commercial purposes. By 1980 when Jim Morris purchased the building to house his real estate office, it had already undergone many changes. Fortunately, the auditorium's added drop ceiling served to preserve the entire upstairs, where the balcony, corridor and bathrooms remained intact.
In 1983, market research for another downtown project noted Frankfort's need for additional evening entertainment to attract tourists. At that time, the first effort to raise restoration funds began, but the goal went unmet. Renovation talks resurfaced in 1990 but failed to take off.
Finally in 2002, Mike Greer, a Frankfort resident interested in the arts, put together the group that created the nonprofit Save The Grand Theatre, Inc., and served as president. Bill Cull—who had led the original 1983 effort—became president in 2005 and still serves today. Charles Stewart, Fontaine "Chip” Banks, Ed Stodola and Joanna Hay served on the board. An additional dedicated force is made up of more than 150 volunteers.
The group inaugurated two
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