Home Local Entertainment Bessemer’s Historic Lincoln Theatre Being Revitalized

Bessemer’s Historic Lincoln Theatre Being Revitalized

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Photo courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library archives via Bhamnow.com
The Birmingham Times

Built as a 400-seat “picture house” to show first-run movies for African American audiences, the historic Lincoln Theatre is the last undestroyed black theatre in Bessemer and one of only two extant theatre buildings in “The Marvel City.”

Earlier this summer the theater received a $21,000 design grant to advance the restoration of the 1948 cinema and community venue in downtown Bessemer.

The award will finance the creation of architectural drawings for the 71-year-old venue, as well as a design plan for the marquee, signage and façade.

Upon its grand reopening as a cinema and performing arts space, the Lincoln will show movies and provide production capacity for the performing arts, including drama, dance and music.

The restoration of the Lincoln will be the first major initiative of The Holland Project, a 501c3 nonprofit organization founded in 2017 by the family of acclaimed actor and Bessemer native André Holland.

“I want to create a space where young people can explore their interests in arts,” said Holland, who has extensive stage and screen experience, appearing as an actor in half a dozen films, including the Oscar-winning “Moonlight.”

He has directed and performed at The Globe in London and the Manhattan Theatre Club, among other renowned venues. Holland will star in “The Eddy,” a musical drama currently in production in Paris, to be released on Netflix next year.

Growing up in Bessemer, Holland had often studied the Lincoln Theatre — he was a regular at a barbershop on the same block as the abandoned cinema. His parents, Mary and Donald Holland, recounted seeing movies at the Lincoln as teenagers. André Holland purchased the building in February 2017, with a vision to open it as a single-screen cinema and performing arts space.

Mary Holland retired from U.S. Steel after 36 years as a business planner. As a lifelong resident of West Jefferson County, she is committed to providing access to the arts for children of Bessemer and surrounding communities.

“Part of our vision for the Lincoln is educational programming for Bessemer youth, designed and directed by creative professionals from Alabama and visiting artists from around the world,” Mary said.

Glenny Brock, outreach coordinator for the Lyric and the Alabama Theatre, has joined the Lincoln restoration effort as a project consultant. Family ties in Bessemer attracted her to the project, as did the venue’s unique history.

“In the first half of the 20th century, Bessemer had at least three cinemas and one drive-in for black patrons,” Brock said. “The Lincoln is the only one left.”

Follow the progress of the restoration and learn more at www.alabamalincoln.com.