Oriental Theater trying again to restore historic neon sign

One of Denver’s most historic theaters is trying again to restore the neon sign and marquee that have been aesthetic hallmarks of the North Side for decades.

The owners of the Oriental Theater, which was built in 1927, have begun a full overhaul of the exterior. The vertical “blade” displaying the theater’s name will be repainted, and the letters themselves, made of real neon, will be replaced, said general manager Scott Happel. The marquee that spells out upcoming shows will also be re-painted and restored to look brand new.

Previous attempts to restore the sign — dating back to 2016 — have failed to withstand the test of time, Happel explained. “We’ve had it done twice, apparently by people that weren’t quite sure how to do it correctly. But I’d say it’s needed to happen for decades.”

This time, the theater’s owners have partnered with Denver-based Morry’s Neon Signs, whose namesake, neon technician Morry Weseloh, was in the business for 40 years.

“We’re super excited to have a company that seems to have the decades-long expertise of working with signs like this and bringing them back to look the way that they did in their heyday,” Happel said, adding that this is his third attempt at an exterior renovation.

Despite the changes, Happel says there will only be a “10-20% difference” detectable in the appearance of the theater. The goal is to honor its historic appeal and bring “it back to something closer to the way it looked in the 1960s. The last paint job has kind of taken some detail out of how it used to look, so they’re taking it back to a more classic look.”

The renovation started Aug. 8 and will continue through the end of the month.

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