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Updates on the restoration of the Tivoli Theatre

Two years ago, the historic Tivoli Theatre began a major restoration project, closing to the public. Now, we’re taking you through the last steps of the project.

Rendering of the outside of the Tivoli Theatre and the Tivoli Performing Arts Center

It’s time to your seats for these theater updates.

Rendering provided by the Tivoli Theatre Foundation

If you frequent downtown, you’ve probably passed the beloved marquee of the historic Tivoli Theatre — and you’ve probably noticed that it’s been closed since August of 2022 for renovations. Now, we’re giving a play by play on what’s coming.

Old black and white photo of the stage in the Tivoli Theatre

The current restoration is working to preserve the 1921 look and feel.

Photo provided by the Tivoli Theatre Foundation

A star is born

But first, let’s step back into 1921, when the stage lights lit up for the first time, and talk about the theater over the years.

Designed by Chattanoogan Reuben H. Hunt in a Beaux-Arts architectural style, the nearly $1 million theater was crowned as the “Jewel of the South.” Opening with a showing of Cecil B. DeMille’s “Forbidden Fruit,” it became a hub for stage + film through the ‘40s. In the ‘50s, the Tivoli saw a decline due to the rise of televisions — playing its last film in 1961 before closing.

In 1962, a grant was secured to get the building recognized on the National Register of Historic Places + to bring a new life to the theater, a $7 million restoration took place from 1987 to 1989.

Fun fact: The Tivoli Theatre was also one of the first public buildings in America to get air conditioning in 1926.

Rendering of the new lounge inside of the Tivoli Theatre with patrons around the bar

Once complete, the project is expected to bring in 759 full-time equivalent jobs + 4.1 million theater visitors.

Rendering provided by the Tivoli Theatre Foundation

The show must go on...

Flash forward to present day, the Tivoli Theatre Foundation is striving to “polish the Jewel” with another large-scale renovation + construction project.

In a $60 million development, let’s get into the key details.

Tivoli Theatre
To preserve the 85-year-old building, new seating and improved ventilation will be installed + touch ups done to the plaster, gold leaf, and paint.

There will also be an elevator installed in the front of the house, connecting the theater to its new performing arts center in an accessible way + bathrooms will be added to every floor.

Rendering of the Tivoli Theatre's new venue the Bobby Stone Theatre

To support the future of the Tivoli, a new gathering space is being constructed.

Rendering provided by the Tivoli Theatre Foundation

Tivoli Performing Arts Center
The construction of this adjacent building will open up educational programming for the arts community. In a commitment to diversity, the center will ensure that “50% of all education program participants are from minority or low-income communities and backgrounds.”

The new center also marks the opening of the Tivoli’s fourth venue, the Bobby Stone Theatre. The venue will feature seating for up to 250 guests + can be transformed into a rehearsal or event space for the community.

Bonus: This theater will be the new home to the Bobby Stone Film Series.

While the foundation has raised $23 million out of a $30 million fundraising goal, there is still an ongoing “Your Ticket to History” campaign for the restoration. Folks can take part by giving donations or naming:

  • Rooms and spaces
  • Seats
  • Chandeliers
  • Lights on the marquee + blade
  • Donor Wall

“This is our home, this is Chattanooga, this is what we’re all about,” said Tivoli supporter Tom Griscom. “That is what the Tivoli has done and that is what the Tivoli will continue to intrust.”
Construction is projected to be complete with the theater reopened by late 2025 or early 2026.