Fifty years ago, the Loew's Ohio Theatre was ready to close and the "Mighty Morton" pipe organ would be fired up one last time -- at least at that location -- for a free community concert Feb. 24, 1969.

The theater, which was built through a partnership between the Loews (originally Loew's) theater group and United Artists studios chain, had opened March 17, 1928.

But the theater's date with the wrecking ball never came. The grand structure was saved and Mighty Morton continued to carry a tune.

The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, formed to consolidate fundraising efforts to purchase and restore the theater, wants to show its appreciation to the public by holding another free organ concert and singalong at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17, in the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. in downtown Columbus.

"That's a big thank you to the community for supporting the theater," said Chad Whittington, president and CEO of CAPA.

The arts group will celebrate its 50th anniversary with several events throughout 2019.

The March 17 concert commemorates the day the Mighty Morton made its debut at the theater.

Costing $21,000, the organ is one of four identical models built by the Robert Morton Organ Co. of Van Nuys, California, for Loews, according to CAPA.

CAPA's featured organist Clark Wilson will replicate the music performed by Roger Garrett, the organist who gave the "final" concert in 1969. By coincidence, Wilson was in the audience for the show.

"Having experienced the 1969 farewell concert in person and now myself being a part of the Ohio Theatre tradition for more than 27 years is beyond exciting," Wilson said. "To have the opportunity to recreate part of that magical performance is the ultimate in nostalgia.

"Not only did it deeply touch the community, but the magic of a movie palace and its theater organ forever changed the course of one young boy's life. That magic continues today every time I sit down to play at the Ohio Theatre."

Wilson's performance will be followed by a concert from organist Simon Gledhill. It will feature music from Broadway, Hollywood and the "Great American Songbook."

Other major events this year include the 50th anniversary celebration of the CAPA Summer Movie Series, slated June 14 through Aug. 11 in the Ohio Theatre.

CAPA will offer 50-cent tickets to opening weekend and select showings in its 2019 lineup, which has yet to be announced.

Patrons can expect a mix of classic films, series premieres and special events, including a silent film with live musical accompaniment on the Mighty Morton organ, Saturday morning classic cartoons and "Fright Nite Friday" with Fritz C. Peerenboom, also known as Fritz the Nite Owl, a former movie host on WBNS-10TV, said Rolanda Copley, a spokeswoman for CAPA.

The arts organization also will hold open-house walking tours from 1 to 4 p.m. July 13 of its three downtown facilities -- the Ohio, Palace and Southern theaters. Participants will learn the history of each property and also stand on the stages to get an actor's perspective, Copley said.

CAPA's renovation of the 2,800-seat Ohio Theatre included changes in the layout to hold live performing arts. The primary arts organizations that now use the facility are BalletMet, Broadway in Columbus and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Copley said.

In addition to the three historic theaters downtown, CAPA owns and/or manages the Riffe Center Theatre Complex, the Lincoln Theatre, the Drexel Theatre, the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany and the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.

"We've got a lot of things going on," said Whittington, who began working at the Ohio Theatre 20 years ago while earning a degree in finance at Ohio State University. "We're looking toward the future."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary