By Marshall Cearfoss
Supplying Tyler with live music, classic movies, live comedy and theatre, Liberty Hall is becoming the center of entertainment in downtown Tyler.
“It’s good for a family. It’s good for a couple on a date night. It’s good for people who do really appreciate music. It’s not to drink a lot of beer and hear a country band. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we have those venues already in this community,” said Anne Payne, manager of Liberty Hall since it started in 2011. “And so we’re trying to provide, through the city, a different option for people.”
Originally, the building was an A-list movie theater from 1936 but closed down in 1986. From 1986 to 2011, Payne said that ownership “changed hands quite a few times.”
Payne claimed that the building had been used for a multitude of businesses in the time before the city of Tyler bought the building. After much deliberation, city leaders decided to turn it into the cultural center that it is today.
“That’s what the citizens wanted,” said Payne “They wanted downtown to be an arts and culture district — to bring tourism and to bring Tyler’s real style and the things that are of interest to the downtown area. And Liberty Hall came out of that plan.”
Payne is hoping to make a new style of entertainment available to the citizens of Tyler.
“There’s not a lot of opportunity in Tyler, or East Texas that I know of, to bring younger kids to hear live music,” said Payne. “I think it’s important for younger kids to be exposed to live music as well as live theater. So we try to bring that into a venue that is family friendly.”
Soon after opening, Liberty Hall had a limited amount of resources and a small following but, as more people attended, the frequency of shows and events grew.
“We started out doing movies every Thursday night when we opened four years ago,” said Payne. “We were always planning on being more of a performing arts venue. As we have grown, the movies have tapered off. Like, I do movies every Thursday in certain months. We do horror movie month in October, we do romance month in February, we do blockbuster month in July — old summer blockbusters. Stuff like that will draw people, but we have so many events now that we can’t do every single Thursday night with a movie.”
Although all of the events are chosen by Payne, many of them are selected from online suggestions from the community.
“Facebook is definitely where people suggest what they want to see; what they want to hear. I always say I like Beyoncé and Lil Wayne, but they are not coming to the Liberty. So, if you know of music that is reasonable,or music that is from the Texas or East Texas area, or an up and coming group that might be interested and is looking for somewhere to play,” said Payne.
While the theater does play movies, Payne only plays classic movies as opposed to current box office films. Along with introducing Tyler to a unique film experience, she doesn’t want to compete with the larger theaters farther south on Broadway Avenue.
“I want you to go experience the new Star Wars there, but I want you to come and see the old Star Wars here,” said Payne, “I really enjoy a party, and that’s what we try to make it like. That’s what makes it community theater. You’re gonna come here and hang out with a bunch of people that you don’t know but have exactly the same love of whatever it is you’re about to see. I love that, and I don’t think we have that enough anymore.”
For more information on the theater, or to suggest an event, visit http://www.libertytyler.com, or find them on Facebook or Twitter @liberty_hall.