In what almost seems like the basis for a sitcom, four best friends are on a mission to revitalize a Kingsport tradition by revamping an old movie theater known as The State Theatre.
Zachary Starnes, who attended ETSU for two years, along with Cameron Hite and friends Joshua Holly and Ashley May King, both graduates of ETSU, wanted to keep the historic theater space open as a functional, multi-purpose venue.
According to Starnes, the executive managing director, the building has been around since the 1930s and offers a much needed concert space for the Kingsport area.
“The space is an 80 year old historic venue and a concert space was needed in Kingsport and the region in general, so it was the perfect place,” said Starnes.
When Starnes heard that the building had been recently sold to management that wanted to keep the theater, he quickly put together a business plan.
“I outfitted a business plan to revitalize a multipurpose venue that restores and maintains the live theater atmosphere,” Starnes said.
By observing other theaters throughout his career in the arts, Starnes was able to put forth a business model that maximized the value of the space.
“We saw other places with old theaters and we wanted to take the best elements of all those places and combine them, so what we ended up with is a theater that runs live theater performances, classic cinema, concerts, and special events,” said Starnes.
The State Theatre Company showed their first play last season with a turn of the century version of “Romeo and Juliet.” In addition, they launched a popup variety show which now occurs on every first and third Thursday of the month.
“We hold this variety show either under the State Theatre marquee or in a local coffee shop and the purpose was to not only generate interest in what we’re doing but also to highlight local artists,” said Starnes.
In fact, highlighting local artists and providing a professional setting for local talent is at the very heart of the company’s mission.
“When the four of us first started our careers we had to go outside of this area to find work and we want to change that,” Starnes said.
Starnes is optimistic that this new venue will provide a creative platform for the region and boost the local economy.
“We’re kind of building a professional environment for the arts and artists from this area which ultimately benefits the entire community both economically and culturally by generating both a creative presence and foot traffic in the downtown area,” said Starnes.
The State Theatre Company has recently announced an upcoming 24-hour play festival as well an open audition call for their upcoming production of a play called “The 39 Steps.” Starnes encourages those interested in the mission of the theater and upcoming events to visit their website.
“People who believe in the cause of culturally developing a region should come to our events, look at our website at www.statetheatrecompany.com or contact us at contact.statetheatrecompany.com,” Starnes said.
Correction: The original headline on this article said that the former ETSU students were revamping the old State Theatre Company. They are actually just revamping the State Theatre.