Since its opening 50 years ago, the Hippodrome Theatre has become an integral part of the Gainesville artistic community. What once was a small mail processing room nestled in a post office decades ago has become a fully renovated and functioning cinema at the Hippodrome Theatre for the first time in about 45 years.
The Hippodrome Theatre — located at 25 SE 2nd Place — celebrated Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate its cinema’s reopening after its first major renovation since 1981.
The cinema had been shut down for renovations from May to mid-August, making the ribbon-cutting ceremony a special day for staff members and Gainesville residents.
About 40 people gathered inside the newly renovated cinema to watch staff members give celebratory speeches and cut the ribbon on the Hippodrome’s front steps. The event also provided a fully staffed bar with drinks to celebrate the occasion.
Several prominent Hippodrome staff members spoke at the event, including Board Member Michael Curry, facility manager Bob Robins and artistic director Stephanie Lynge. Other staff members attended the event with friends and family members and grabbed drinks while observing the historic building.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked a key day for the Hippodrome cinema, recognizing its future and artistic role in the Gainesville community and honoring its partnership with the Gainesville community.
President of the Hippodrome Theatre Board of Directors Michael Curry said it was an opportunity for the theater to invite new visitors to the cinema.
“Any chance we can take to show the community and remind the community of what an asset the theater, cinema and gallery is, we do that,” Curry said. “Welcome to your cinema. It belongs to the community.”
The event was sponsored and organized by the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, which has been a steadfast advocate of the Hippodrome theater for many years, the Hippodrome marketing manager Franziska Raeber said.
The cinema’s renovations include new seats, lighting, carpeting and paint, as well as a new movie screen and acoustic wall panels. The first and second-floor restrooms were also updated, with new plumbing fixtures, partition walls, mirrors and refinished floors, Raeber said.
The renovation project cost $337, 570, and it was made possible by Joyner Construction, Inc. and the Wild Spaces and Public Places Sales Tax, she said. Alachua County created the sales tax in Nov. 2022 to improve county recreational facilities, water quality and land conservation, according to the City of Gainesville.
“The enhancements at the Hippodrome Theatre represent an integral component of Gainesville's visionary Wild Spaces & Public Places sales tax program, aligning with the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department's mission to realize the City Commission's vision of establishing a world-class parks, recreation and cultural affairs infrastructure,” Raeber said.
The cinema had been planning these renovations ever since the Wild Spaces tax was announced, according to Hippodrome project manager Bob Robins. The planning for the renovations took about 12 to 18 months, he said.
“We were put on the list available for money from the tax,” Robins said. “We had years of projects we prioritized, but this was the last big project of that eight year commitment … Things haven’t really been done other than a coat of paint for 45 years.”
The first renovation was done decades ago, Robins said, and it involved an old Gainesville movie theater on 13th Street. Staff members visited the run-down theater after its closing and took its seats, placing them in the Hippodrome’s cinema.
The new additions to the cinema, including its new seats, have excited staff members, and they are hoping it will improve the Hippodrome’s cinematic experience for visitors.
“We are so excited to be able to reopen this very integral part of the artistic experience that we are able to create here in the heart of downtown Gainesville,” Hippodrome artistic director Stephanie Lynge said.
Lynge and other staff members say the cinema’s renovations and reopening will help keep the building alive and continue as an artistic part of the Gainesville community.
“We here at the Hippodrome get to create moments, we get to share thoughtful conversations, we get to share laughs and we get to share tears with our audiences,” Lynge said. “That is what makes this place special, and we are so happy that we are able to do all of those things again in this beautiful space.”
Contact Alexandra Burns at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexaburnsuf.