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MSU Riley Center honored among Southern Living’s ‘Most Beloved Historic Theaters’

Photo courtesy of the MSU Riley Center

Mississippi State’s Riley Center has been honored by Southern Living as one of “The Most Beloved Historic Theaters in the South.”

Coming in at No. 10 on the list, the MSU Riley Center topped New Orleans’ popular Saenger Theater as the performance venue in Meridian has seen a magnificent transformation since the turn of the century.

Founded in 1889 as Meridian’s Grand Opera House by German-Jewish immigrants Israel Marks and Levi Rothenberg, the theater shuttered in 1927 as the film age began to dawn. In 2006, The Riley Foundation paired with a group of passionate citizens to reopen the theater with over $12 million in renovations being done to the historic location.

“Glorious and gilded, this Victorian-era theater transports you to turn-of-the-century performance, via incredible acoustics and opulent finishes,” Southern Living editors wrote.

Terry Dale Cruse, associate vice president and head of MSU-Meridian’s campus, said the nod from Southern Living highlights how much hard work has been put in to restoring the theater’s bygone beauty.

“‘Southern Living’ is a long-established magazine with a remarkable reputation for integrity,” Cruse said. “To be honored among such distinguished theaters is a testament to the yearslong hard work and collective effort put forth by Mississippi State and incredible support from our partners at The Riley Foundation and Friends of the Lady philanthropic society.”

The Riley Center, which has served as a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Meridian, has welcomed performances from musical acts such as Bob Dylan, LeAnn Rimes, Bobby Rush, and Chapel Hart. It has also put on many a play while educating students from across the state.

Other theaters included on Southern Living’s list are The Lyric Theater in Birmingham, Ala.; The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Ga.; The Dock Street Theater in Charleston, S.C.; and The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. The full list can be found here.

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