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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Lighting the Landers" campaign launched to restore historic marquee in Batesville

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Since purchasing the severely damaged Landers Theater in 2008, the members of Fellowship Bible Church have contributed thousands of dollars to the restoration of the historic building. Both the interior and the exterior have been meticulously restored. The Landers is not only home for the church, it has also been made available to the community for a variety of events, ranging from the annual Autumn Antique and Crafts Festival to an Ozark Foothills FilmFest screening of the acclaimed documentary, Defining Beauty: Ms. Wheelchair America. Country music icon Narvel Felts performed there on August 20 and planning is underway for a New Years Eve musical celebration.

The revival of the Landers has also figured significantly in the resurgence of Batesville's Main Street, setting the bar for other restoration projects in the downtown historic district. The Landers occupies a unique place in the minds of three generations of Batesville residents who had their first date, stole their first kiss, or experienced an indelible movie moment there. People still recount seeing Gone with the Wind, A Hard Day's Night, Star Wars, or Forrest Gump at the Landers, as if it were yesterday, with vivid details about the popcorn, the crowd, and the building itself. In the words of Jo Blatti, former director of Old Independence Regional Museum, "The Landers is a highly significant building in terms of its physical history and community memory."

Unfortunately, the marquee and neon sign in front of the building have yet to be restored. The church has been unsuccessful with several grant applications, due largely to the troubled economy and the shrinking number of available historic preservation dollars. The marquee is an important symbol of a time when downtown was both the economic and cultural center of the community. Although it is part of what is now the church, it is also a significant icon that helps to preserve precious memories of a simpler time. Restoration of the marquee and neon will not only complete the resurrection of the Landers, it will also create an important beacon to brighten the entry to downtown as the number of evening events and activities continues to grow.

Fellowship Bible Church, in cooperation with Main Street Batesville, is launching a community-wide campaign, "Lighting the Landers," to raise the funds to restore the marquee and light the Landers neon sign. Restoration costs are estimated to reach between $60,000 and $70,000; funds raised beyond that level will be used for a maintenance and electricity fund. Contributions of any amount are encouraged, welcome, and deeply appreciated.

Contributions of $500 or more will be recognized and prominently displayed at the Landers. Recognition levels are:

* Major Sponsors -- $10,000

* Corporate Sponsors -- $5,000

* Business Partners -- $2,500

* Civic Groups -- $1,000

* Individual or Family Supporters -- $500

Contributions of $2,500 or more may be spread out over a three-year period. Make checks payable to Landers Marquee Restoration Fund and mail to Fellowship Bible Church, 276 East Main Street, Batesville, AR 72501.

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