Historic Harlingen theater getting a facelift

A man with a vision is shining new light on the stage of the Grande Theater, after decades of rotting away with a "no trespassing" sign out front, in this sleepy little corner of downtown Harlingen, near Harrison and South D Street.

"Freddy Fender got his start here. He was in a talent show," said Xavier Jaramillo, the new owner.

He has big plans for the historic site.

"I'm from Harlingen and so I used to drive by this place as a kid," said Jaramillo.

The Grande first opened back in February of 1942, providing entertainment before most homes had a television.

Old film rolls are now serving as a time capsule for days of old.

"There's a lot of history in this place," said Jaramillo. "It catered to the Mexican populous here in this area and this was the only theater that had no segregation."

Mexican movie stars like Pedro Infante took this stage on debut night for one of his films. The antique cast iron projectors are still in place.

The auditorium and balcony once packed with movie goers and sweethearts generations ago is now long overdue for a remodel.

Some of the original carved wooden seats remain intact.

"You don't see that anymore, you know," Jaramillo asked.

The owner plans to invest over a million dollars to make the old gem shiny again.

Sharon Rangel owns the bar next door and said a re-vamped theater will do wonders for the area, bringing her more sophisticated customers.

"I think its very good because this area is a little bit troubles with the people," said Rangel.

The plan is to hold live performances.

A larger stage, new seating, and a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting will all be added, replacing what's now hiding in the dust.

Jaramillo said the Grande spoke to him.

"That it needed a lot of love. That it still had a lot to give," said Jaramillo.

His vision is not just restoring the building, but Harlingen too, as a cultural hub.

The Grande Theater will keep its name but when its finished, you'll see all sorts of dancing on the stage, everything from folklorico to break dance.

The owner also plans to hold special events.

No word yet on opening night.

There is still a lot of work to do.