On Jan. 5, 1982, the Fischer Theatre was closed. Kerasotes Theatres took seats, the boiler and everything else it could use and sell out of the building.
In 1983, the city now owned the theater. The Vermilion Heritage Foundation was formed to restore the theater.
The five Danville stars, Donald O’Connor, Bobby Short, Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Van Dyke and Gene Hackman came to Danville to do a benefit for the theater. About $400,000 was raised. But because an expected state grant did not come through, the complete restoration of the theater was postponed.
In 1997, it was announced the building was unstable and should be destroyed. Old Town Preservation Association intervened to try to save the building. The city gave the theater to the Old Town Preservation Association. This group set about having the necessary structural work done to make the building stable.
In 1998, the Old Town Preservation Organization sold the building to the Vermilion Heritage Foundation so the funds raised by the stars’ benefit could be used to start renovation to the lobby area of the theater.
The renovation and expansion of the lobby was completed, including refurbishing and replacing the tin ceiling, new heating and air conditioning, and the creation of a concession area. A donated boiler and theater seats have been installed.
During the years, much money has been donated and spent keeping the theater in a viable, restorable state.
In August, The Fischer Arts & Entertainment Museum opened to celebrate the entertainment careers of the many former Danville residents who built a career in the industry.
The focus is on the Van Dykes, O’Connor, Hackman and Short who returned to Danville in 1989 to help raise funds for the restoration of the Fischer Theatre. Also honored is singer Helen Morgan, who is shown on the Walldogs Celebrities wall opposite the theater.