The first public building in Savannah to offer air conditioning was a luxurious cinema that still operates today.
Originally owned by the theater director Arthur Melville Lucas Jr., this cinema screened “Hard Luck” and “Camille” for the politicians and public figures of Savannah on opening night December 26, 1921.
From an Italian Renaissance exterior to the ornate Italianate interior, the building quickly garnered recognition for being the most luxurious theater in the city—in particular thanks to its claim to being the first public building in sweaty Savannah to feature air conditioning
After more than 50 years, the theater closed its doors, and the Historic Savannah Foundation denied several demolition petitions before the local historic preservationists Emma and Lee Adler formed the nonprofit group Lucas Theatre for the Arts, committed to restoring the theater. Although the pair purchased the building in 1987, raising the necessary funds proved difficult, and construction didn’t begin until 1995.
In June of 1997, the Lucas hosted a wrap party for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the film based on the novel of the same name. Ticket sales from that party, as well as funds from an auction featuring props from the film, and Lucas was able to reopen in 2000.
Now owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design, the 86,000-square-foot theater takes visitors back to the days of Buster Keaton and Alla Nazimova. The space includes a 40-foot-wide ceiling dome, a 1,237-seat theater, and offers 4K digital cinema projection and Dolby Digital surround sound for university screenings and signature events, such as the Savannah Film Festival.
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