Alabama Theatre to usher in 2018 by lighting up new sign

Alabama Theatre to usher in 2018 by lighting up new sign
Workers install the Alabama Theatre's 18th Street sign, a replica of the sign that originally hung from the building at that spot, matching the one at the front of the theater on Third Avenue. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Ring in the New Year at the Alabama Theatre’s 90th Birthday Bash and join in the cheers as the switch is flipped, lighting the new 18th Street sign for the first time.

The nearly 60-foot-tall sign, which replaces one that hung in the same spot until 30 years ago, will complete the exterior restoration of the Alabama Theatre, returning the outside of the building to its original look. It will match the sign that already lights the Third Avenue side of the theatre.

The theatre will mark this historic moment on New Year’s Eve as part of its 90th birthday party. The evening will kick off with a concert featuring Sister Hazel, Taylor Hicks and a video saluting the Alabama’s first 90 years, produced by WBRC Fox 6.

After the concert, the crowd will head outside to continue the celebration. With noisemakers and party favors in hand, they will count down the clock until at the stroke of midnight, when the sign will light up and once again shine on downtown Birmingham.

“It will be fun to light that sign up and see the exterior of the Alabama finally completed,” said Brant Beene, president of Birmingham Landmarks, the nonprofit owner of the Alabama and Lyric theatres. “We hope the light from this new sign will help bring more people downtown to shop and visit us at the theatre.”

Birmingham-based Fravert Services constructed the sign, which is equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

“It looks like the original sign but with a modern twist,” said Richard Rayburn, vice president of Fravert Services. “Instead of using neon bulbs, we have added LED lights because they save energy and reduce power consumption.”

“The lights can also change colors,” said Rayburn. “If the Alabama Theatre wants to switch the color of the lights to raise awareness about breast cancer, autism or other social issues, or to help celebrate holidays, they can do that.”

The sign restoration project was primarily paid for by local donors, including gold-level funding from the Junior Board of Birmingham Landmarks, Alabama Power and Regions Bank. Silver-level funding was provided by Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, Cawaco Resource Conservation and Development Council, Gray Construction, the Jernigan Foundation, Cindy and Ken Rhoden, ServisFirst Bank, Southpace Properties, Wells Fargo, and Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher and Goldfarb LLC.

The Theatre received supplemental funding, thanks to more than 54,000 votes in the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign last October. That support earned the project a place in the top 10 and a $120,000 grant toward the sign replacement. REV Birmingham nominated the theater for the national competition and led the call to motivate Alabamians to vote to bring back the sign.

Built by Paramount as its flagship movie palace in the Southeast, the iconic Alabama Theatre opened on Dec. 26, 1927. It now hosts many events, including concerts, dance recitals, graduations and seasonal movie series. The theatre counts 2017 as its most successful year, with more than 100 events, including 20 national touring acts.

“The Alabama Theatre has survived 90 years because of dedicated customers and generous gifts from our local corporate and philanthropic community,” said Beene. “They sponsor our shows, restore our theaters, buy tickets to events, make donations and, in this most recent example, voted for us every day during the grant campaign contest. We hope you’ll all join us on New Year’s Eve for this concert and to unveil the new sign. We wouldn’t be here celebrating 90 years without this community-wide support.”

For more information about the New Year’s Eve bash or to purchase tickets, click on

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