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Its doors closed due to pandemic restrictions, Danville’s historic Fischer Theatre still is providing community entertainment while raising money to pay bills.

Since December, the Fischer has been renting its marquee to share congratulatory messages of all kinds: anniversaries, birthdays, retirements, Merry Christmas and — just this weekend — birth announcements (above; congratulations to former News-Gazette copy editor and “Cubbie Conversation” creator J.J. Lockwood for becoming a grandparent for the first time).

The idea was hatched and carried out by executive director Jason Rome and operations director Ashton Greer.

“We’ve always had people asking us ‘Can I rent it?’ But most of the time, we were marketing something of our own,” Greer said. “We saw this as an opportunity because we’re not using the marquee because we’re not open.”

Prices range from $100 for a one-day message on one side of the marquee to $500 for a weeklong message on both sides. “It’s helping pay our electric bill,” said Greer, noting other entertainment venues — such as Hoopeston’s Lorraine Theatre — are doing the same thing during these down times.

The marquee, which stands out in a high-traffic area on North Vermilion Street, is for rent at least through January. Reach out to Greer at ashton@fischertheatre.com or 217-474-2978 if interested.

The response “has been wonderful,” Greer said. “People call us and tell us ‘That message made my day.’“

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