SPRINGFIELD — The curtain has been raised on a new career opportunity for Regina Clontz. She was named director of the Mars Theatre early this month.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Clontz said.
Clontz succeeds Allison Newberry, who stepped down due to family concerns.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Clontz said. “Allison Newberry did an amazing job.”
Clontz is a former Fitness and Aquatics director at the YMCA in Rincon.
“The Y will always have a huge place in my life but to be able to leverage what I have always done and do more of what I love — which is community enrichment — is just icing on the cake,” she said. “I passionate about community. That translates from the YMCA to here.
“I do feel like this theatre in our county is pivotal for so many reasons. I think it broadens the minds of everyone who attends, whether it’s a love event or a movie. It allows us to step out of Effingham County and step into the big, wide world.”
The Mars Theatre at 106 S. Laurel St. is an entertainment phoenix. It opened in 1945, delighting Springfield residents and visitors with Western movies, classic films like “Gone with the Wind” and national news reels.
“It was a big deal in the community,” Clontz said. “It created excitement and enhanced the feel of community.”
Interest in the theatre spiralled downward, however, after the rise of television, leading to its closure in 1957. It sat idle for decades until a move to restore it started in 2007.
Downtown Springfield had fallen on difficult times following the move of Ga. Hwy 21 to the western edge of the city in 1997.
“The city decided that, in order to grow, one of the first steps that it would take would be to revitalize the theatre,” Clontz said. “This took about seven years. There were huge risks but, for most communities, revitalizing a theatre is a good gamble.”
The city council viewed the theatre as potential catalyst for downtown activity and renovation. The Springfield Revitalization Corporation, individuals and other groups raised thousands of dollars to restore it and the city council eventually purchased it.
“I think we have that (downtown catalyst) now,” Clontz said. “We have coffee shops, cafes and now we are looking at Flacos (House) opening. We will have more options in the evening for dinner so that you can do dinner and a movie.
“It’s a huge opportunity. It was a huge risk (for the city council) but I think the reward has been huge.”
Clontz plans to look into partnering with Springfield restaurants to provide movie and/or dinner discounts for their customers. She estimated that the Mars Theatre ticket and concessions prices are 50 percent less than nearby movie complexes.
“It is the best deal — absolutely,” Clontz said. “We are providing citizens with something they need without them having to leave the county. Their dollars make a difference.
“With everyone who enters this theatre and does pay admission, it keeps our theatre here and allows us to bring all sorts of cultural events here. Being a patron here instead of popping over to Pooler is greatly appreciated.”
Clontz’s 2022 agenda includes starting podcasts to spotlight Effingham County businesses and residents.
“(And) one of my short-term goals is to make this a gathering place for more than just for-profit events,” she said.
Clontz also plans Town Talks.
“That would be free, just like Lunch and Learns at the Y,” she said. “We will find speakers to come in around lunchtime. We will have local doctors come, or movers and shakers.
“It could be anything to heighten awareness and enrichment of life.”
Clontz is aiming to provide theatre offerings for a younger citizens without losing the support of older ones.
“It’s got to be a place for everybody,” she said.