It's hard to miss the Tally Ho. The black-and-white building with the bold-yet-quaint marquee immediately catches the eye as one walks the sleepy streets of downtown Leesburg. For locals who watched in dismay as the Tally Ho closed in 2000, the sleek, freshly painted facade must be as comforting as it is striking.
The Tally Ho first opened its doors in 1931, charging a mere 35 cents for adult admission. For 69 years the theater continued to screen a variety of movies for its loyal patrons; then competition from multiplexes in other parts of Loudoun County proved insurmountable. In October of 2000, the doors closed. But they were re-opened two years later when local real estate investors Pat Hoke -- a former math teacher and FBI agent -- and Judy Wilson -- a former computer consultant -- decided to bring the Tally Ho back to life. After significant renovations, the theater marked its return to Leesburg in September 2002.
Don't go into the Tally Ho expecting all the comforts of your local stadium-seating cinema. While the place has been nicely refurbished, it's still more primitive than most modern movie houses.
The small lobby provides just enough room for a concession stand and a few paying customers in search of Hot Tamales and buttered popcorn. The auditoriums are also on the petite side. I recently saw "About a Boy" in the tinier of the two screening rooms, which can hold 145 moviegoers. (The other auditorium can accommodate 170 and also boasts a balcony, the classic mark of a true old-time theater.) The leather seats were comfortable, though worn. The screen in auditorium two, positioned behind a modest stage, also isn't much bigger than the wide-screen televisions on sale at your neighborhood Circuit City. (Tally Ho currently uses 35mm projectors, but Hoke says he plans to add digital projectors to the mix as well.)
Though the theater management initially indicated that they planned to make the Tally Ho an art house theater, it's become a first-run cinema that features mainstream movies. Which may not be a bad thing if you're walking the streets of Leesburg and looking for an old-fashioned place to catch a flick.
-- Jen Chaney