1970 – The Grand Opera House Restored

The rechristened Grand Opera House reopened with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performing, under the direction of Robert Shaw, on Monday, April 6, 1970. The Grand was awash in fresh white and gold splendor, and live-reporting television crews on platforms greeted the opening night concert-goers as the standing-room-only crowd surged into the restored building. And just like that, The Grand Opera House was – again – up and running.

The Macon Civic Club started its long run of benefit shows every February. High school orchestras and dance academies made their Grand performance the highlight of their year. And a longhaired rock group called The Allman Brothers Band started a regular series of appearances on the stage, reaching their peak with a live concert taping for ABC’s “Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert” in September 1973.

But as has happened with many venues before and especially since, something of a vacuum happened after The Grand Opera House roared back to life. The place was clean and beautiful, and the calendar seemed full. Ticket sales were sometimes brisk and sometimes not; many of the higher-culture events struggled to find a reliable audience once the novelty of having such things come to The Grand wore off.

And money was a problem. Ticket revenue may have been paying for the shows and the staff, but the care and upkeep of the building, especially a building with as much traffic as The Grand, was a constant need. The Grand Opera House was revived with high expectations for elegance, but that elegance was expensive to maintain. Appeals were made (and answered) by the Bibb County Commissioners for emergency infusions of cash to keep The Grand going.

As The Grand’s financial picture steadily diminished, it had to rely almost entirely on being a rental house, and “an elegant museum,” as a January 1985 news release stated. By this point, The Grand Opera House had been through five capital and renovation campaigns in fifteen years. It couldn’t go forward and couldn’t afford to go backward, and even running in place was proving impossible. How much longer could this go on?