By Srianthi Perera, GSN Contributor

Hale Centre Theatre in downtown Gilbert is undergoing a major renovation and 10,000-square-foot expansion that is slated to be completed by August.

The most visible change coming to the complex, built in 2003, will be the formal entry canopy and Hollywood Regency-style marquee, which will announce which shows are playing in a bold, colorful way as old theaters did in the 1930s during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

AV3 Design Studio’s Artie Vigil, architect for the project, came up with the idea.

The change in the entrance will be remarkable, theater owner Dave Dietlein said.

“Right now, people still don’t know what we are when they walk by,” he said. “Very few people know; they just see a big, beige building.”

The town of Gilbert was established in 1920 and Hale is situated within the original square mile, on West Page Avenue off Gilbert Road.

Dietlein said that the theater’s new style elements will match the Heritage District, which incorporates historical elements in the town’s planning regulations.

“I think it’s going to set a real presence for the era this Heritage District was in,” he said. “Part of it is the territorial look of the 1900s, the other part of it is the Hollywood Regency and because it’s a theater, it’s going to fit right into that era of what was happening in America and in Hollywood,” he added.

Dietlein hopes for better recognition for his life’s pet project.

The additional building designs will have multiple façade inspired by traditional southwest territorial architecture. Other features include imitation gaslights, vintage-style gooseneck lights, murals and new landscaping.

On opening nights, he plans to organize a gala and have searchlights to emphasize the grand experience of arriving to the theater. But even on other days, the renovations will serve to bring about added excitement in the Heritage District, which is already humming with diners and shoppers.

“In combination with the Water Tower being right across from the street, there’s going to be a lot of energy built up around this,” he said. “I think it’ll be a place that it’ll be an event. You pull up and you’ve arrived in something special. Whereas now, we’re not able to accomplish that.”

When Dietlein built Hale theater 18 years ago, Gilbert’s downtown was a far cry from its current hip combination of modern restaurant concepts and state-of-the-art offices, arts and farmers’ markets and an ensuing upmarket clientele.

In 2003, when he got here from Utah, there was graffiti and garbage aplenty, barbed-wire fences, boarded-up duplexes and other assorted clutter filling the landscape.

“It was terrible,” Dietlein recalled.

“We sent out a lot of diners every night – once we have a show – and there was nowhere to go. As we’ve gone along, more and more restaurants have come in,” he said. “We bring people in from outside of Gilbert. I think this will be another step up in bringing people off Gilbert Road over here.”

While the construction work is going on, the theater continues with its productions with a family emphasis in its intimate theater-in-the-round.

The extension will include a dance studio that will double as a rehearsal space, and costume and prop departments that will occupy most of the .78-acre land that belongs to the complex.

Hale is also getting a redo of its lobby, box office and theater spaces.

Dietlein conceded that the interior is dated and starting to show. The original carpet still covers the floor and patrons sit on the stairs while waiting to go inside the theater because there’s no seating available.

The number of seats inside the theater won’t change because there’s no more space. New sound and lighting systems are already installed, and an acoustic wall treatment is to come, which will make for better visual and aural enjoyment by patrons. Other technical equipment is also to be replaced.

Hale’s new dance studio will house an education center, where professionals will offer classes and workshops.

The costume department can certainly use improved space. During the theater’s lifetime, props have been built off-site, but in the future, Hale will build them onsite on a 3,000-square-feet space.

“All of the artistic people will be able to be in one area and will allow for better coordination and better collaboration than before,” Dietlein said.

Details: haletheatrearizona.com