History and Mission
The mission of the not-for- profit Willcox Historic Theater Preservation, Inc. is to revive the historic theater as an entertainment and cultural hub for Northern Cochise County communities by:
- providing a venue for performing and cinematic arts,
- fostering the growth of community arts groups, targeting participation of youth,
- providing programming opportunities through collaborative efforts,
- serving as a catalyst for growth of Railroad Avenue Historic District businesses.
SINCE 1914, Willcox and the surrounding communities have looked to the local theater for entertainment. The current theater building was built in 1936 and opened in January 1937, showing The Gorgeous Hussy, with Joan Crawford. The new art deco theater featured a sloped floor, leather seats, a balcony, modern 1930’s projection equipment, and a stage for vaudeville and other performers, with dressing rooms and backstage facilities.
In 1990 the building underwent a major modification in which the single theater was converted to two screens. The lobby and concession area was moved to the center of the building from the front. The original front ticket office and entrance was closed and a new entrance created on the side for moviegoers to enter the lobby. A larger marquee was also added at this point. After the Theater closed in 2011, the non-profit Willcox Historic Theater Preservation, Inc was formed to revive, renovate and operate the Theater. Reopened in 2012, the Theater has been completely renovated, retaining the historic Southwest Art Deco exterior and recreating an opulent interior in authentic Art Deco style. The Theater’s mechanical and electrical systems were also updated to improve the Theater’s environment, and state-of- the-art digital projection and sound system installed to provide a film experience second to none.
In 2016, the Theater purchased 128 N Railroad Ave, adjacent to the Theater, to serve as a multi-use arts and activity space. This building, originally built in 1914 underwent significant remodeling and renovation to serve as workshop and rehearsal space. Used for film showings, dinner theater, art exhibits and many community activities, it was opened in January of 2017. These many changes at Willcox Historic Theater in recent years have led to a renaissance, transforming from a down-at- the-heels and ultimately shuttered movie theater to a stable, prosperous, and highly valued center of arts, culture and entertainment in the community.