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Ocala City Council OKs plan for Reilly Arts Center to operate historic Marion Theatre

The historic Marion Theatre is getting a new lease on life.

That’s because on Tuesday night the Ocala City Council approved a one-year lease that will allow the Reilly Arts Center to operate the facility with mixed-use programming. Councilman Matthew Wardell, who serves as chief executive officer of the Reilly Arts Center, abstained from the vote.

Executive Director Pamela Calero Wardell said on Wednesday that the Reilly plans to bring films, live performances, music, art and more to the theater beginning next month. That will include a variety of film genres including classic, independent and foreign movies, award-winning documentaries, educational programs and recently released Hollywood features.

Wardell said several series also are being planned, including a summer program for children and a “Silver Screenings” series that will showcase matinee viewings of classic black-and-white films. Also planned are small musical performances with regional rock, jazz, blues and classical artists, small theatre ensemble performances, comedy shows, lectures and special event rentals, she added.

Wardell said she hopes the diverse programming will build potential for the creation of unique downtown cultural experiences centered around film, art and music. She said more details and a full calendar of events will be announced in the coming weeks.

“We are looking forward to being a part of the downtown landscape and working with restaurant and retail partners in a creative way,” Wardell said. “We see this as both a great responsibility and an awesome privilege to manage and program one of Ocala’s most iconic landmarks. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we are ready to do that work for our community.”

The Reilly Arts Center announced last month that construction will soon begin on a $4 million expansion project. That work is expected to take about nine months. During that construction period, the staff of the Reilly plans to continue bringing arts and live entertainment to Ocala through the Marion Theatre.

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