The red neon “Globe”—a colorful splash that enlivens Bertram’s downtown—illuminates the street below. The imposing sign appears as if it was plucked from the heyday of single-screen theaters. In fact, every aspect of this theater represents a bygone era, and its evolution from dilapidated relic to small-town gem is a testament to perseverance and friendship.
The Globe Theatre stood forlorn and empty for decades, but Bertram residents Zach Hamilton, 39, and Lance Regier, 41, its current owners, visualized its potential. Even though they had never known the structure as anything but an empty shell, the lifelong friends shared dreams of musical glory. Their music initially piqued their interest in the Globe.
“We would pass the theater all the time,” Hamilton says, “and thought it would be cool to fix it up and play there.”
In 1998, they approached owner Tommy Knight about buying the Globe, but family ties kept him from selling. The theater had been a part of his life since he was 8. He’d often accompanied his older brother to work the projector at the then-vibrant Globe. Eventually, he also worked there, and in the 1960s he bought it. Knight kept the theater open as long as he could, but in the early ’80s, dwindling revenues forced him to close for good.
So it sat. Decaying.
In 2009, as the city took the first step toward demolishing the building, Hamilton and Regier approached Knight again.
They shared with him how they wanted to show movies and bring in cool bands to rock the joint. Knight was pleased they wanted to keep it as a theater.
“Can I work there sometime?” he asked.
When they said, “Yes,” so did he.
So the Globe joined the list of Texas single-screen theaters experiencing a renaissance. The LanTex Theater in Llano, the Pines in Lufkin and the Odeon in Mason all have been refurbished and put back into commission for movies and live performances.
Terry “Tex” Toler, Main Street program manager and historic preservation officer for the city of Llano, is happy to see the old theaters return. “When the theaters are restored, they bring a vitality back to a downtown area that really triggers a lot of economic activity around it,” he says.
With the help of Main Street and other programs, buying an old theater and fixing it up is not unusual: Local governments, partnering with cultural and economic-development organizations, frequently take up such projects. What is unusual about the Globe project is that two individuals took on the renovation.
Hamilton and Regier, both members of Pedernales Electric Cooperative, spent more than $60,000 just refurbishing the building, a modest sum made realistic only because they did much of the work themselves. They each worked a regular job, saved money for the next phase of construction, then worked on the Globe each weekend. The next week, they turned around and did the same thing again.
They never dreamed it would take so long.
“We thought it would take maybe a year or two to complete the project,” Regier says. “We bought it in 2009, and we finished in 2015.”
The 1935 art deco theater stands reincarnated. Regier and Hamilton scoured auctions across the country, in person and online, to find authentic architectural elements. As office buildings, schools and other theaters from the same era met their demise, the two swooped in to secure light fixtures, seats and embellishments that now lend visual intrigue and authenticity to the Globe. When originals couldn’t be found, they used convincing reproductions. From the copper ceiling tiles above to the mosaic tiles on the floor below, the theater speaks of another time.
As beautiful as the Globe is to see, its live performances set the stage for visitors to experience the magic. For music lovers and performers, famous and not yet famous, the Globe holds a special allure. The original red granite walls enhance the sound, and the space, which holds about 300, is gaining a cult following among artists who play there.
“The acoustics there are absolutely exceptional,” says Anton Raby of Big Anton & the Alley Cats, a rockabilly band that has played larger venues. “I think my band sounds better playing there than any other venue.”
Regier says artists typically respond to the Globe in this way. “They want to keep returning to the theater after playing the first time,” he says.
Live music brings new guests into the city, but locals love the movies. The Globe features classics, including westerns and other features from back when. “Every show, we get someone who remembers seeing movies there when they were younger,” Regier says.
New memories are being created, too. Trudy Collier moved to Bertram three years ago with her husband, who grew up there.
“They play the old movies, and that is a blast,” Collier says. “I took my son to see The Wizard of Oz, and it was great sitting with my neighbors, enjoying a night out that you didn’t have to drive far to go to.”
People like Collier see the Globe as a gift to the community, but it is also a monument to the friendship and doggedness of two men who made a youthful dream come true.
LaDawn Fletcher is a Houston-area writer who enjoys writing about Texas.