A landmark of downtown Las Vegas reannounced itself to the community Friday night by lighting up the night sky for the first time in two decades.
Several hundred people gathered at the Huntridge Theater at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway for a night of nostalgia culminating in the relighting of the theater’s sign and marquee.
Guests enjoyed live music and food trucks while touring the inside of the theater where groups such as The Killers, Beastie Boys and Green Day once played.
The parking lot slowly started to fill up as the sun set. Groups of people greeted friends and waited for the relighting ceremony to begin.
Jackie Maloy, 61, and her husband, Todd Jones, 60, stood next to their friend LeAnne Notabartolo.
Jones said his last memory of attending a concert at the Huntridge was in the 1990s when Courtney Love performed. He said someone in the crowd threw a piece of gum at the singer, which got lodged in her hair. Love stormed off the stage.
‘Staple in the downtown area’
Maloy and Notabartolo never got to experience the theater when it was open but were excited for what it could become.
“Vegas is famous for tearing everything down, and this has been a staple in the downtown area. … Why do we have to tear everything down in this city? Why can’t we restore, maintain, celebrate stuff that’s been here forever?” Notabartolo said.
Developer J Dapper purchased The Huntridge Theater in March 2021. The goal is to start construction on renovations in about 12 months. Dapper said construction would take about a year to complete.
SoHo Playhouse, based in New York City, will be the theater’s sole operator and responsible for its programming. Its goal is to bring off-Broadway to Las Vegas with live concerts, comedy, cabaret, dance and circus.
The theater opened in the 1940s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the State Register of Historic Places and the City of Las Vegas Historic Register.
It started out as a movie theater and eventually became a live concert venue.
On Friday, Graciela Robles took a photo of boyfriend Aaron Weeks with the Huntridge sign in the background. Both were born and raised in Las Vegas and had passed the theater many times but wondered what it looked like inside.
“Walking in it was nostalgic just to smell that popcorn,” Weeks said.
After the sun set, the crowd started to get restless as speakers including Dapper, Congresswoman Dina Titus and Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, spoke about the importance of the renovation project.
A small group began to chant, “Light it up!”
Hundreds of phone lifted in anticipation and a cheer went up as white neon letters illuminated “Huntridge” and flashing gold lights surrounded the marquee.
From red to white
Matthew Shlisky worked at the Huntridge as a ticket taker in the fall of 1965 when he was 19. At the time, the theater was one large room that seated about 800 people.
Shlisky, now 76, said the Huntridge sign was always lit red. The white marquee with red letters would remain lit while the theater was open, and turned off after the last showing of the night.
He said the theater played blockbusters such as the 1965 comedy “The Great Race,” starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the Huntridge hosted matinees for kids until 4 p.m., with tickets costing 50 cents. A regular ticket for an evening showing was $1.50. Popcorn cost 25 cents — 35 cents if buttered. Candy was 10 cents.
One of Shlisky’s responsibilities was changing the letters on the marquee.
“I’m so happy to see them relighting the sign,” Shlisky said.
Every weekend in April, the theater will be open for tours that can be reserved online.