Jones wants Select Theater to last another century

By Phil Major
Posted 2/24/22

Things are looking up at the historic Select Theater in downtown Mineola – literally.

All eyes are upon the iconic neon tower that sits atop the theater and for years has let folks know that if the tower’s lit, the theater’s open.

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Jones wants Select Theater to last another century


Things are looking up at the historic Select Theater in downtown Mineola – literally.

All eyes are upon the iconic neon tower that sits atop the theater and for years has let folks know that if the tower’s lit, the theater’s open.

Patrons recently participated in a benefit auction to save the tower – the worse for wear since it was installed in 1948 and, like many structures, severely damaged in the historic February 2021 ice and snow storm.

Fortunately, the fundraiser exceeded expectations and gave the theater enough money to get those repairs underway so the tower does not collapse.

New director George Jones did note that the tower is leaning away from the street, so had it collapsed the tragedy would not have been as bad as it might have been.

Meanwhile, indoors, tragedy, comedy, music, and of course movies, continue apace, as well as a slew of new projects and ideas Jones has and is implementing since he became the director last summer.

And even that move was not without some drama.

Jones, who is longtime friends with Jeff Hurley, the theater board’s president, and has organized a couple movie showcases at the Select, said he was literally begged to take the job and turned it down.

But finally he relented, and he has the theater heading in a good direction.

Jones has been well-established in the entertainment business in the Tyler area for many years, directing a variety of events from a Celtic festival to a vinyl record event.

That variety is one thing Jones is bringing to the table. As he put it, throw some things against the wall to see what sticks.

He said sometimes great ideas simply do not work, so they must be scrapped and something else tried.

The goal is to keep the theater profitable enough that the 100-plus year-old facility can continue to receive the TLC that any old building needs.

Once the tower is shored up, there’s a plumbing issue to address, and more.

Longtime patrons will continue to see the theater’s staples, such as community theater held four times a year, concerts by the Lake Country Symphonic Band and a combination of first-run and classic movies.

When the pandemic limited new releases, classics became a staple and will remain. Check out their Tuesday offerings.

Jones is introducing a variety of musical events, with the recent performance of the Bluez Boyz filling the auditorium with an enthusiastic audience.

Among upcoming productions are Cash and King, top imitators of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, in April.

And one of the new events that promises to be a big draw for Mineola, the Southeast Texas Bigfoot Conference April 29-30.

Just how big could surprise some folks. Jones noted that when he first mentioned the event on social media, it quickly drew views in the tens of thousands.

The street will be shut down, and some of the top TV personalities will attend.

Jones would like to see a collaboration of local restaurants, shops and hotels to attract visitors from the Dallas area for a weekend of shopping, eating and entertainment. He hopes to also partner with Amtrak to help bring in those visitors.

He says downtown Mineola has something many area cities don’t and could attract a weekend clientele to help boost the city and its businesses.

“This town is amazing,” he said. It has unique local restaurants, interesting shops and museums.

That recent benefit auction was the first such event to be held in the theater’s annex, a building it owns across the street. Jones spent months getting it cleaned up, and some of those auction items from past theater performances were a part of that effort.

Jones is planning to use that space as well, with a bridal show planned in the spring and perhaps a children’s theater.

Jones said one of the drawbacks of the community theater has been that it knocks out several weeks of movies – the theater’s financial bread and butter.

Now rehearsals can be held at the space across the street until much closer to the production hitting the stage, allowing the Select to continue generating income.

Jones said he has always been involved in entertainment, going back to his high school days in one-act play.

Dinner theater, Kilgore’s Shakespeare festival, a haunted attraction and a Christmas light park in Tyler, you name it, and Jones has been in the middle of it.

When he and Hurley connected years ago over ghost hunters, he fell in love with the Select.

Taking it on full-time has meant letting go of some other things.

The goal is to bring everything up to par and still retain the old time classic feeling, he said.

Ideas soon to become reality include a live interactive game show.

Think “What’s My Line” with some physicality, Jones explained.

“We’re trying to bring in every dollar to make this place last another hundred years,” Jones said.

Jones has implemented a flex pass to take the place of the season tickets offered in the past for community theater and symphonic band patrons.

The flex will still allow season passes to those events, but it will offer much more, from movie and concession discounts to lower prices on the other live performances.

Next up on the stage will be Winnie the Pooh, the musical, in May, while the symphonic band will bid farewell to longtime director Mike Holbrook at its March 27 and 29 offering.