Letter: Bye Theater

Through Sam Combs

Updated: 5 Some minutes ago Released: 5 Some minutes ago

Now it’s official: The 4th Avenue Theater will be demolished this summer. Wouldn’t it be appropriate if it were torn down on July 4th to celebrate our history? These San Franciscan carpets have fooled those who, for the last 13 years, blithely thought that at least part of the theater would be saved. And I have a Knik Arm Bridge to sell to those who believed in it. Now we’re going to lose the historic center of our city where I’ve lived for 67 years – and it’s not coming back. Many of us did what we could to save the building I started attending movies in at age 3 in 1955 by being part of the multiple iterations of Friends of the 4th, Save the 4th, May the 4th Be With You etc. In fact, in 2006, my Historic Preservation Team was commissioned with the project to save the theater. I worked on the project until the summer of 2007 when the funding went bye.

My idea was, and still is, to save the building in place and use it as a cultural center hosting theater groups (we’d just have to clear the alley to get backstage circulation), dance groups (the Sydney Laurence Room would be a large hall for ballet and dance practice), groups of artists to work and sell their art, guided tours of the historical theater for tourists all year round and much more. The Performing Arts Center could be connected to the theater via the existing Fifth Avenue bridge and through another Fang/Chang building – the old Key Bank. Northern Lights and Benson, there goes the neighborhood – what we have left! Or the Key Bank surrogate, so insensitive to historic Anchorage and subarctic Alaska, as portrayed in Perkins & Will’s Valentine’s Day portrayal in ADN.

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Now we have a hole where the theater used to be, and who knows when its supposed replacement will be built? If the residents of Anchorage had made the commitment to save the theater many years ago, or if the City of Anchorage had bought the theater when it had the opportunity, we would not be in this position. Anchorage will rue the day it demolishes the 4 Avenue Theater.

– Sam Combs


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