ATHC: Who we are

Mezzanine of the Appalachian Theatre, 1938. Image courtesy of the Sams Family.


Since 2011, a group of business and community leaders from Watauga County, led by John Cooper, Founder of Mast General Stores, has been conducting a capital campaign to raise support for the purchase, renovation, and restoration of the 1930’s-era Appalachian Theatre on King Street in Downtown Boone.  The theater has a rich, colorful history but stood gutted and boarded up in the middle of a rapidly-growing, vibrant area in 2011.

The Appalachian theatre of the high country...

...was established in 2012 explicitly for the purpose of operating exclusively for charitable, cultural, artistic, historic or educational non-profit purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and, more specifically, to renovate, restore, preserve, operate, program and manage the Appalachian Theatre for the benefit and enjoyment of both residents and visitors to the High Country region of North Carolina. You can read our organization's By-Laws RIGHT HERE.

But what does that mean?

Basically, it means that the renovation and re-opening of the Appalachian Theatre will make Downtown Boone the hub for entertainment in the High Country and improve the programming options for residents, visitors, and tourists in our corner of North Carolina.

Once it is restored to its original Art Deco brilliance, the theater will be capable of hosting a variety of events including lectures, meetings, film series, concerts, medium-size theater performances, and smaller dance productions.  With approximately 361 seats in the Auditorium and 243 seats in the Balcony, as well as a Community room that can accommodate up to 200 patrons, the theater will be able to host almost any small- to mid-size performing arts event.  Located in close proximity to Appalachian State University, the theater will also be used by the ASU theater, music, and dance departments as well as clubs and athletic departments. CLICK HERE to read the ATHC's 2014 analysis of local arts education resources and why the new Appalachian Theatre will be a hub for many of these programs.

An Economic Impact & Tax Revenue Analysis by the Center of Economics Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) at Appalachian State University also predicts that direct spending by visitors and residents who attend Appalachian Theatre events will be approximately $3 million/year, resulting in a total economic activity increase of approximately $4.5 million/year for the regional economy (Watauga, Ashe, and Avery Counties). Furthermore, the study predicts that the additional economic activity would generate 53 new FTE jobs with total additional labor earnings of $1.4 million/year. “These results demonstrate that the potential economic impacts attributable to the Theatre are quite large for our market,” concluded Dr. Michael McKee, principal author of the study. The Theatre will create jobs, revitalize Boone’s downtown district, and serve as a significant economic driver for the region.

You can read the full Economic Impact and Tax Revenue Analysis below (click "Full Screen" on the toolbar to zoom in).

New Life for the
Appalachian Theatre

The original Appalachian Theatre closed in 2007, and the buyer of the building at that time immediately set to gutting the entire building in order to transform it into a live performance venue for bands. As a result, many of the original decorative features of both the interior and the exterior were lost. That buyer encountered financial difficulties shortly thereafter, and by the time the Town of Boone bought the building in 2011, a leaky roof and vandalism had caused additional damage to the building.

The gutted auditorium and stage of the Appalachian Theatre as it appeared in May 2013. Image courtesy of Eric Plaag.

After working cooperatively for two years, the ATHC bought the building from the Town of Boone in 2013. In order to make the theater usable, the ATHC has been working since then to repair the existing building and bring it in line with current fire and building codes.  While the original theater facade and marquee have been reconstructed in painstaking detail to recreate the original exterior appearance of the theater, the interior wall surfaces still need to be finished in the theater's original Art Deco style.  New theater seating that meets ADA requirements must be installed.  New equipment, including digital projection, theater lighting, and a new sound system, must be purchased to transform the theater into a modern performance venue.  Other modern amenities--including dressing rooms, expanded wing space, a loading dock, and elevators--must be added to make the theater a viable performance space.

The renovated Appalachian Theatre is designed to be flexible, accommodating as much as feasible the varying needs of potential community users.  We will staff the facility with experienced, versatile professionals who will nurture an atmosphere in which all members of the community are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the new life of the Appalachian Theatre.  This mission will be achieved:  1) Through outreach to and inclusion of local, regional, and national artists in our programming; 2) Through the formation of strategic collaborations and partnerships; 3) Through the active engagement of the community in establishing, using, and sustaining the facility; and 4) Through the cultivation of relationships with groups or individuals who will use the space on a regular basis.

The Appalachian Theatre is seen as a community resource that can fill a gap in the High Country.  There is no other similar-sized venue where music, dance, and theater can be performed in a beautiful and professionally designed and supported facility that also has meeting and reception space. 

The new Appalachian Theatre marquee is hoisted into place, November 2016.

the need for
community support

This is an opportunity to bring back something that has a special place in the hearts of the people of the High Country, and which can add to the arts and cultural resources of the region.  This effort to restore and renovate the theater will be transformational – not only to the physical venue, but to the community as well.  The area deserves a venue where local talent can perform and where residents and visitors can experience the intimate movie-going experience of yesteryear.  The "new" Appalachian Theatre will contribute to the development of a thriving downtown Boone, which will help create a more vibrant High Country community for generations to come.

We hope you will support this effort to bring back to the High Country a “Theater for All Seasons"! To donate to the Appalachian Theatre project, please visit our DONATE PAGE.