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A look back, with an eye on the future
mars visit 2
Jack Ramsey and Mark McDonald check out the room at the Mars Theatre where Ramsey used to run the film projector. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Jack Ramsey remembers exactly where the old popcorn machine used to be when his family owned the Mars Theatre in Springfield.

Leading a tour of the theatre Friday for Carmie McDonald of the Fox Theatre Institute and Mark McDonald of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, Ramsey pointed to the spot where the popcorn machine stood between the Mars’ two main doors.

“It was going all night. I can smell it now,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey also took them upstairs to the projector room, where he joked that he forgot to stop the film for intermission during the Mars’ final showing of “Gone With The Wind.” He described the color of the neon lights on the building’s façade.

Those were the kind of details McDonald was seeking from Ramsey to help design the theatre’s renovation. The Fox Theatre Institute has awarded a $20,000 grant to spur Mars Theatre restoration efforts.

“Yes, absolutely — you can’t tell anything about colors from a black-and-white picture,” said McDonald, the program manager for the Fox Theatre Institute. “He could tell us about how the building originally looked so that, when we work with the folks here on the concept for a design going forward, we’ll be able to reference some of the Springfield history.”

Construction on the Mars is to be completed by the end of June, according to Gussie Nease, vice chair of the Springfield Revitalization Corporation.

The restored theatre will include some of its original seats and the original candy case. Nease said the candy case was “black as soot” when it was found sitting on the theatre’s stage, but it was restored by Doug Edwards of Edwards Interiors.

The restoration project “has been a labor of love,” Nease said.

The Fox Theatre Institute also will ensure the lobby and bathrooms are restored to match their appearance during the Mars’ heyday in the 1950s. No match is required on behalf of the Mars for the Fox Theatre Institute grant.

“I don’t think we want to go back with the brown paneling,” Nease said with a laugh, “but we do want to get the characteristics of it as close as we can. That’s important to us.”