The Loft Cinema marquee, an iconic sight on East Speedway that beckons thousands of passersby daily with the latest in independent, documentary and art film titles, will soon double in size.
The theater is adding a second reader panel that will allow for more space for movie listings and bring the sign’s height from approximately 14 to 30 feet.
The worn lettering bearing The Loft Cinema’s name will be replaced and LED lighting will be installed to make the free-standing marquee more energy efficient.
Loft program director Jeff Yanc says the improvements are a big deal.
“The current marquee has seen better days,” he said. “It is very faded. There are several broken parts to it. It is definitely time.”
The new marquee comes with a price tag of about $65,000 and will be completed by the end of July, according to The Loft’s Executive Director Peggy Johnson.
When constructed, it will serve as a nod to The Loft’s past, Johnson said.
The theater opened as Showcase Cinema, a one-screen, luxury movie theater in 1969. When Showcase added a second screen in 1972, a second panel was added to the marquee, Yanc said.
The Loft made regular use of the two-tier sign after moving to the location from East Sixth Street and North Fremont Avenue in 1991.
That ended when the top panel was damaged after a heavy rainstorm in 2002. The damaged panel was removed and it has remained that way since.
Yanc said several other projects had to be completed before the marquee restoration could occur.
In 2012, The Loft added a third screen by converting a neighboring auto shop.
In 2017, the main theater was renovated, resulting in a new layout with improved sight-lines and more comfortable seating.
The marquee has remained high on their list of improvements.
“People love the marquee,” Yanc said. “They take photos in front of it. It is part of the theater’s identity.”
Besides, Yanc said, adding a second panel allows the theater to say more about the films showing to people driving by.
“The text panel now gets so packed,” Yanc said. “It is kind of hard to read. We will soon have the space to properly promote things.”
Kathy French, president of Effective Signs Ltd, the company contracted to rebuild the marquee, said one of the great benefits to the new sign, besides being informative and providing that retro look, is that it will save The Loft money.
“Right now, they are using big lamps with fluorescent tubes and it is consuming a lot of primary power,” French said. “The installation of LEDs is going to make it much more efficient, lowering operating and maintenance costs.”
The Loft board hopes to raise a significant chunk of the money still needed through a fundraiser on Saturday, June 29, that will include dinner, drinks and a screening of “Woodstock: The Director’s Cut.”
French said parts of the marquee are already being fabricated at Effective Signs’ 8,000-square foot facility on South Euclid Avenue.
After this project is completed, the theater’s board will work toward expanding The Loft’s lobby area, adding more than 400 square feet as it pushes out into the front courtyard.
Johnson said the completed marquee will offer good memories for long-time Loft patrons.
“It is restoring a little bit of Tucson’s personality,” she said. “People are going to be really excited to see it.”