City to remove Apollo Theater film set at Martin performing arts center

Published 12:05 am Monday, August 29, 2016

NATCHEZ — Nearly three years after it was transformed into the Apollo Theater, the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center will return to its original form.

The City of Natchez was recently contacted by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to remind city officials the agreement to allow temporary additions made to the center during the filming of “Get On Up” in 2013 expired in January 2015.

Set designers for the James Brown biopic added temporary balconies and gilded ornamentation to resemble the historic Harlem theater for scenes shot inside the Mississippi landmark.

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The temporary renovations were approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) under the condition that they would be removed 45 days after filming wrapped at the center.

Natchez Festival of Music representatives, however, requested the additions be allowed to stay up, saying Natchez could benefit from tourism related to visitors wanting to see where the movie was filmed.

Festival of music officials said the additions would also enhance the performances the festival regularly hosts in the center.

MDAH granted the festival’s request and permitted the additions to remain in place for a year.

“The reason the board gave an extension is because of the idea that it would have some tourism value when people want to see sites associated with the film,” said Jim Woodrick, director of historic preservation for MDAH.

Woodrick said MDAH sent a letter to the city last year reminding city officials the agreement has expired.

When Mayor Darryl Grennell took office July 1, Woodrick said MDAH sent another letter as a courtesy to inform the new administration of the agreement’s expiration.

“We did not include a deadline (for the additions to come down),” Woodrick said. “This is a new administration, and we have worked well with Mr. Grennell before he was mayor. We just sent a letter to remind the city.”

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard informed Grennell at a recent aldermen meeting that he had spoken to a MDAH board member who had informed him the additions would need to come down.

Grennell said the letter from MDAH has not come across his desk, but he has directed City Building Inspector Jody Rutter to begin the process of determining how the additions would be taken down and what would happen to them.

Movie representatives told festival of music officials at the time the additions were put up that the set would take $40,000 to deconstruct and take down.

Grennell said he is grateful to MDAH for allowing the additions to stay in place so they could be enjoyed by visitors to the center.

“We are appreciative with the recent events that have taken place with the festival of music, it has actually given (the center) that grand style and appearance, but we’ve got to revert to the original. I’ve spoken to festival of music (officials), and everyone is in agreement.”

Woodrick said it is important the center be returned to its original state because of the historic character of the landmark building.

“It’s just a basic precept of historic preservation,” he said. “You don’t want to give a false impression of something that wasn’t there.”