Edenton abuzz over Taylor Theater's reopening
Saturday, July 7, 2018
EDENTON — “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” the latest superhero movie based on the Marvel Comics characters, opened in Edenton on Thursday but few of those crowding into the Taylor Theater were talking about the film.
Instead, they were buzzing about the theater itself, which was officially reopening after a year of being closed.
The theater’s former owners shuttered the Taylor after a storm damaged its building in June 2017. For a while it looked like the theater might never reopen. But movie-goers and downtown boosters in Edenton decided they weren’t going to let that happen. They banded together to save the theater, buying the building from the former owners and undertaking a major renovation of the theater.
The renovation, which started in late 2017, was recently completed — just in time for the start of the summer blockbuster season.
Belinda and Ryan Respass, the Taylor Theater’s new co-owners, proudly opened its doors about a half-hour before the “Ant-Man and The Wasp” began. They couldn’t have been happier as they worked to fill the theater’s seats with movie fans chomping on popcorn, drinking sodas, and smiling from ear to ear.
Patrons took in the renovations, which besides repairs to the roof, included bathroom upgrades, fresh paint and fixes to the screen room. Outside the theater, the new flashing “Taylor” sign atop the two-story building made it the crown jewel of Edenton.
“We wanted to bring a modern feel to the Taylor while keeping it traditional,” Belinda Respass explained.
One of those taking in both the theater and the movie was 50-year-old William Mackenzie.
“I’ve been a patron of the Taylor Theater for about 22 years,” he said. “It's nostalgic to me and exciting to bring my family to the theater. I am excited to see what the new owners have in store.”
One movie-goer, who said he only wanted to be known as “C.T,” also waxed nostalgic about the theater.
“I have lived only 15 minutes away from the Taylor since I was little,” he said. “I remember when they only had one screen, now there are two. I came here once a week when the previous owner, William Taylor, ran the theater.”
Citing his own family’s experience working to restore historic buildings, C.T. said he could appreciate the amount of work that went into renovating the Taylor Theater.
“I understand what it takes to do those types of buildings,” he said.
Seth Bliss, 36, who was working behind the counter selling popcorn, candy, sodas, pretzels and nachos, said he is anticipating big crowds throughout the weekend.
“After my wife and I moved to Edenton, we heard about the Taylor through Facebook and we were excited to hear it was opening. I put in an application and now I work here,” he said.
Julien Mordecai, 49, of Edenton, said he was pleased the theater was getting a second act.
“The building is beautiful,” he said. “I used to work here years ago, and when I got the news that they were closing, I was depressed.”
Mordecai wasn’t the only former theater employee on hand for Thursday night’s grand re-opening.
Lynn Perry, a former fire chief in Edenton, said he, too, once worked at the Taylor.
“In the 50’s, I worked here, and worked the projectors.” he said.
Respass said she believes the theater serves as kind of a gathering place for Chowan County residents.
“Other than events on the water, there’s not a lot to do here,” she said. “I worked here for over 20 years doing everything from running the concession stand to working the projectors, to eventually becoming manager of the theater. I even got married here. It broke my heart when I had to give the key to the building back when the Taylor closed.”
That last memory brought tears to Respass’ eyes.
“I just want to be successful and for the pride in our work to show through to Edenton,” she said.
Judging from the reaction Thursday night, Respass and her husband have accomplished that.
Perry said he liked everything about the newly improved version of the Taylor.
“I loved the movie, the building looks great and I love the concession stand,” he said.
Frank White, 70, who said he brought his daughter to the Taylor when she was young, was equally impressed.
Compared to previous owners’ management, “the Taylor has a lighter atmosphere and welcoming staff,” he commented.