KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Mark Hunt plans to bring new life to a historic landmark of downtown Kingsport.
“It’s been an infatuation I guess, and a dream of mine since I was in my twenties to have a little theater,” Hunt said.
Hunt is a Kingsport native and owner of auto repair business The Body Shop. But now he also owns a piece of Model City history.
Hunt purchased the State Theatre on Broad Street in November from Kingsport real estate agency Urban Synergy. He plans to restore the venue into an entertainment spot for the whole community.
“We’re going to try to get it back just the way it was,” said Hunt. “Just tweak it a little bit, outside of just [showing] movies. Try to get some live music or stand-up comedy. Mix it up a little bit.”
The State Theatre opened in 1936 and drew in audiences with movies and plays throughout the decades. Its doors closed in the 1970s and the building fell into disrepair. There have been several owners and temporary businesses in the building since.
Hunt says there’s plenty of work to be done to restore the State’s former glory.
“The seats are gone, the stage is there. Ninety to ninety five percent of the electrical is finished. So the big part is over.”
Hunt’s efforts have the City of Kingsport’s support.
“Downtown buildings and especially theatres from back in the day, those are harder venues [to revive] because of your capacity and your seating,” said Jason Hudson, Kingsport’s economic development director. “It takes passion. And having a local business owner who has that passion to bring it downtown is the best chance of success for the theater.”
Hunt said the State Theatre will likely reopen in 2021, but a late 2020 opening is also possible.
“We’re going to try to shake Kingsport up a little bit here in the next couple of years,” said Hunt.