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Grant will pay for more than 300 new seats in downtown Newberg's Art Deco structure

PMG FILE PHOTO - Newberg's Cameo Theatre will get some much-needed upgrades thanks to a $80,038 grant from the state.

Newberg's 83-year-old Cameo Theatre is about to get a few modern comforts.

Oregon's $620,000 Historic Theater Grant program will provide the downtown landmark $80,038 to replace a large part of its 350 seats, install new acoustical drapes and replace soffit lighting in the marquee. The theater also plans to install aisle lighting and make a few other changes that are in character with its 1937 Art Deco structure.

Theater owner Brian Francis and the Newberg Downtown Coalition applied in mid-April for the funding. The program offers grants between $15,000 and $100,000 to properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or eligible to be on the national list, in towns of fewer than 30,000 people.

The Cameo was one of 14 theaters around the state seeking about $1.2 million in grants. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department announced the awards on June 29.

The Cameo on First Street was named in October 2018 to the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1937 and was purchased by the Francis family in 1940 by Ted Francis, Brian's grandfather. The family also owned and operated the now defunct Francis Theater, which sat where Francis Park is now located on the northwest corner of College and First streets. It closed after suffering structural damage in the Spring Break Quake of 1993, was sold to a California theater owner and eventually was seized by the city as a health hazard and razed. The family also owns the famous 99W Drive-In on Portland Road.

Francis said improvements to the Cameo could cost around $110,000. The theater has gathered about $29,400 in private grants to match state funding.

"We are very pleased to be awarded this grant for the Cameo Theatre," Brian Francis said. "We are working on preserving the theater's seating as much as we can while bringing in new seating that will fit with the look of our theater. The wall covering will help with sound in the theater and decorating it with LED neon tube lighting will give it that old school look with fresh new details."

Work is expected to begin in January and take about six months. The biggest part of the project would replace hundreds of aging, dilapidated seats in the theater's center section with more than 200 new Mobiliario Imperial seats with cupholders and reclining backs. About 80 of the theater's original 1937 seats would be moved to the sides (40 on each side), as would the popular loge seats.

For more information and to keep up with the changes, visit the Cameo Theatre's Facebook page or go online to 99w.com.


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