Council Chair Mark Bates Supports both Keith Albee and Economic Development Iniatives from Mayor Williams
Bates continued, "I have requested that Finance Chairman Gary Bunn have the committee review the proposals before the next council meeting."
Mayor Williams said "the Keith Albee is the crown jewel of our downtown. It's imperative that the city be active part in its redevelopment."
Designed by Thomas Lamb, whose theatres include the Ohio and Palace Theatres in Columbus, the Keith Albee resembles a European palace or art museum. Patrons still gawk at the crystal chandeliers, gold-framed mirrors, winding stairways with steps of Botticino marble, and a sculptured auditorium with a Mediterranean blue dome, adobe plaster and velvet curtain that parts to reveal a huge screen.
Back in 2006 a consultant from the Roger Morgan studio stated, We have found in our recent visits to the Theatre and other meetings, a passionate fondness for the Keith-Albee. It was made clear by community leaders, all of whom took time out from busy schedules [to say] that they wanted it both restored to its former elegance and used more.”
The consultant report said, “It is clear from our detailed analysis that the Keith-Albee is in much better condition than most of the theatres we are asked to evaluate. It has been in continual use, alterations have been made by the owner with great concern for the integrity of the original design, and there are neither major structural nor mechanical problems evident."
The report continued, “The Keith Albee Theatre has been fortunate to have had a very responsible owner. The Hyman family has owned the theatre since the day it opened and their concern for retaining its beauty and historical significance cannot go unrecognized. Even the recent partitioning of the theatre was done in such a way as to minimize the visual impact on the central space and to preserve architectural features. The removal of the partitions can be accomplished with little or no damage to the hidden decorative plaster work.”
In fact, as the study points out, “the 2,600-seat auditorium of the Keith Albee is a rarity, one of only six atmospheric theatres credited to Thomas Lamb, whose theatrical design career produced “many of the nation’s greatest movie palaces including landmarks in several major American cities as well as buildings in England, Australia, North Africa, India and Egypt.”
HNN photographer Chris Spencer, prior to his death, had in 1971 photographed the Herd’s winning touchdown against Xavier.
With a little less than seven or eight seconds left on the clock in the MU-Xavier game, the young photographer had a “feeling” that he should snap the shutter. Acting on that impulse, Chris Spencer captured on black and white film the winning touchdown as time ran out. “I just remember the ball being snapped and Reggie [Oliver] coming back and throwing that pass,” Spencer said. “I just knew they were going to score.
Spencer’s photo of the winning touchdown in the 1971 game may be the only one left that captured the play and the excitement that followed. The picture and others were used by the Warner Bros. filmmakers as part of the “We Are Marshall” end credits.
“I was contacted by one of the co-producers who was interested in using some of the pictures I had taken in 1971 and 1969,” Spencer recalled. “I had a picture of the touchdown and the scene afterwards. I sent the negatives out there to be scanned so they would be high movie quality.:
Ironically, just as the filmmakers won the good will of Huntington, Spencer trusted them too.
"I think that was the first time the negatives left my possession for any length of time. I made five or six different trips to Fed-Ex to get different negatives out that they wanted,” Spencer said.
Along with stringent photo quality, Spencer found that the permission process thorough. One of the photos, which eventually ended up on the cutting room floor, had the image of a cheerleader. “When they put people in the movie, they have to go out and trace them down,” Spencer explained about obtaining a clearance signature from Nancy Sheppe.
Prior to the film’s release, Spencer found himself in an unusual position -- the man who normally shot the world from behind a lens found himself in the limelight.
“When I went over to the MU Alumni [Association] to do some work [in October 2006], Reggie saw me. The first thing he wanted to do was get my picture taken with him. That’s what made me feel so different. It sorta made me feel like a celebrity.”
But nothing prepared him for the “media” screening on Dec. 12. “The first time, it just brought tears to my eyes,” he said. Before the premiere showing that evening, Spencer headed home for a period of reflection.
“I thought the movie was outstanding, excellent, very emotional and very well done. It’s very uplifting dealing with things that actually happen in life.”