The Ritz Theatre was originally constructed in 1939 as a single screen movie theater seating 500 patrons. It was operated by Fred T. McLendon, who built a chain of 36 theaters across the southeast. Of those, the only remaining Georgia theaters are Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre and Toccoa’s Ritz Theatre. Over time, the Ritz has hosted many forms of entertainment, including The Famous Flames with James Brown, comedian James Gregory, and The Drifters.
Enter the Schaefer Center
The Currahee Arts Council acquired the building in 1982 from owner, Mrs. Orville Schaefer. During this period the theater was known as the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts and hosted musicals and theatrical productions. The Currahee Arts Council managed and maintained the Schaefer Center until 2011.
City of Toccoa Acquisition
In late 2012, the future of this Toccoa landmark was assured when the Fox Theatre Institute selected the Schaefer Center for an Economic, Preservation, and Design Plan grant. By March of 2014, the City of Toccoa assumed ownership of the facility and extensive restoration activity began.
A Firm Future
On January 28, 2016, The Fox Theatre Institute gave the city another grant to recreate the historic Ritz Theatre marquee on the building’s facade. The new marquee was dedicated in a ceremony held on August 25th, 2016 and will serve as a landmark for the downtown area for generations to come.
After years of renovation work, the Historic Ritz Theatre was recognized by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the United States' largest statewide non-profit preservation organization. The Ritz Theatre received the prestigious 2017 Chairman's Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation for its renovation efforts.