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Hollywood Theater fire likely caused by electrical malfunction

Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:02:54 AM CST
Updated On: Aug 23 2013 06:33:00 AM CDT

WKBT, News8000.com

LA CROSSE, WI -

La Crosse firefighters say the early morning Hollywood Theater fire was likely caused by an electical malfunction from the marquee sign.

Phil Addis, owner of the Hollywood Theater, tells News 8 that the fire will set back its grand re-opening.

The marquee sign caught fire around 12:15 a.m. on the corner of 5th Avenue and Jay Street.

"We don’t really know the full extent of the damage," Addis said. "We don’t know how much more needs to be done."

As of Friday afternoon, Addis did not know how much the damage will cost and when the theater will open its doors to the public.

"You can see the marquee where the bulk of the damage is," Addis said. "The marquee was the one thing that didn’t need repair. When it caught fire, it destroyed the best working part of the building."

A La Crosse firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the early morning fire. He cut his hand, but was able to return to work in about an hour.

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A firefighter was hurt while working at the scene of a fire in one of downtown La Crosse's most recognizable buildings, the Hollywood Theater on the corner of 5th Avenue and Jay Street.

His injuries were minor.  He returned to work within a few hours of the fire, which started at about 12:15 Friday morning.

The La Crosse Fire Department says damage to the Hollywood Theater is minimal.  But even that minor damage could be a major set-back for the building's new owner, Phil Addis, who has undertaken the challenge of returning the historic theater to its former glory.

"I think people are going to be disappointed but hopefully they'll still believe we can open the theater."

Addis bought the Hollywood in February of 2012.  Before that, the building sat empty for nearly 10 years.  Since he bought it, Addis has been working on getting the theater renovated, and ultimately wants to return it to the way it looked in the 1940s.  He says fundraising efforts have been going well, and the plan was to have the Hollywood open again for either New Year's Eve, or Valentine's Day.  Friday's fire may change that.

"[The fire] pretty much destroyed the marquee.  We were hoping to restore the marquee and put a new sign on it, so that'll have to change our plans.  It'll put us behind.  The electrical was functioning, the marquee was functioning, things were looking good for the interior of the building.  Mechanicals we thought were in good shape, obviously now they're not."

Addis tells us he thought the marquee was the one piece of the Hollywood he didn't have to be concerned about. 

"Probably the saddest thing is that the marquee was working," says Addis.  "It was a great marquee, it was neat to light it up.  You can see it from anywhere downtown if you were on Jay Street, along Third or Fourth."

The investigation into the the fire isn't finished.  The marquee was lit Thursday night, in honor of a newlywed couple.

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