Arthur Lucas, the owner of the Lucas Theater, was involved with the development and the operation of numerous theaters in the South. His namesake Lucas Theatre opened its doors in 1921 even though much work on the ornamentation of the theater had not been completed. The opulent theatre screened silent movies starring Buster Keaton and Rudolph Valentino at the premiere and obtained rave reviews as the most elegant movie theater in Savannah. Work was completed and then in 1926, Lucas added air-conditioning - the first public building in Savannah to have this feature. Advertisements in the local paper encouraged attendance to movies where the attendees could be cool and comfortable.
The Lucas remained a popular place to go throughout the 30’s, but began to decline as the culture changed and in 1976, closed its doors. In just 3 days, the owners were requesting permission to demolish the theater to build a parking lot. Fortunately, the request was denied by the Historic Savannah Foundation, but it was not until 1987 that a nonprofit group was formed to restore the theater. It took 10 years and lots of fundraising to finally get started on the reconstruction. The final push for funds happened in 1997 when Clint Eastwood agreed to hold the wrap party for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” at the theater with ticket proceeds and an auction of some of the movie props benefiting the theater. In addition, a large contribution was made by Kevin Spacey, the star of the movie.
The grand reopening happened in December, 2000, almost 88 years since the first opening. Recognizing the importance of the Lucas Theatre to the arts and culture scene in Savannah, Savannah College of Art and Design entered into a registered nonprofit relationship to manage and support the theater. Today, performances of all types are held there including the Savannah Music Festival and the Savannah Film Festival.