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Aging Sutter Theater gets face-lift

by Appeal Democrat
08-18-2011

An aging Hollywood beauty received a face-lift Wednesday in downtown Yuba City in front of dozens of people, including a man who remembered her when she was young and beautiful.

“At one time it was a gorgeous theater,” Lloyd Bullard said.

Bullard, who for 50 years has owned the barbershop next door that bears his first name, saw movies, including “Titanic” and “Top Gun,” at the Sutter Theater before it closed four years ago.

Restoration of the theater marquee now under way along Plumas Street is part of the site’s restoration and hoped-for reopening as a performing arts center.

Dane Shideler, 22, of Visual Impact Signs in Yuba City was 60 feet up in the air on a crane taking letters off the marquee. He later said the finished work will mean the return of an old school, exposed neon look along Plumas Street.

“We’re going to make it look just like it did,” said sign company owner Adel Mitchell.

Russ Clark, who helped establish the Sutter Performing Arts Association that plans the renovation, said a performing arts center, though not the old theater specifically, has long been planned for the downtown area.

A new multi-screen movie theater once proposed for downtown — but built 1.5 miles away off Highway 99 along Whyler Road and opened in 2008 — wouldn’t have worked at the planned Shasta and Bridge streets site, Clark said.

“That would have been a terrible location,” he said. “You need to be where there’s a whole lot of traffic.”

Ellen Murguia, 45, who used to take her three children to the Sutter Theater, was happy to see the project begin at the 61-year-old moviehouse.

“It’s about time,” Murguia said.

The site’s second life as a place for events including local plays may be a gamble, said Yuba City resident Brian Buchanan, 42, who was downtown.

“I don’t know if we really have the market,” Buchanan said.

Bullard has mixed feelings about the performing arts center plan and has doubts about whether it will work.

Plumas Lake resident Wilbur Riley, 75, who parked in the lot for the Yuba City Post Office across from the Sutter Theater, said he’d travel to a restored Sutter Theater to watch plays.

“That’d be nice to have something like that,” Riley said.

The City Council in March approved $175,000 in redevelopment funds for work that includes fixing the marquee, along with painting, an awning and electrical work.

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