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A corny story
The life, death and rebirth of a banned theater prop
Popping good fun: Lucas staffers Lee Alilima-Rose and Nayantara Khanna

You’d think it wouldn’t be easy to make a ginormous popcorn box disappear.

Eight feet high with red stripes louder than a pair of Christmas pajamas, the box stood outside the Lucas Theatre for a little over a week last month. Tourists posed for photos in front of it, locals enjoyed the festive addition.

Then suddenly, it was gone.

The colossal wooden container was designed and built by the Lucas staff to help promote the screening of World’s Largest, a documentary about small-town America’s giant roadside attractions. The film dug deeper into these communities to see how large–scale objects help drive tourism to local economies, and Lucas Managing Director Meaghan Gerard thought Savannah could use a “world’s largest” of its own.

“We would roll it out front during the day in the week before the screening, and people really seemed to enjoy it,” said Walsh. “It generated publicity on Twitter and Facebook and put Savannah on the map.”

It was all good buttery fun until someone with differing aesthetical opinions complained to the Metropolitan Planning Commission about “historic appropriateness.”

The day after the screening, an MPC enforcement officer paid a visit to the Lucas to regretfully inform the staff that the popcorn box violated a sign zoning ordinance and would have to be removed immediately.

“The anonymity of the process was the most frustrating,” lamented Walsh, who tried to work with the MPC to find a permit that would enable the box to stay. “It doesn’t seem right that an unnamed person can make a phone call and that’s it.”

The unfairness of it all generated a new flurry of blog posts and tweets. Amy Elliot, the director of World’s Largest, who came to town for the screening, was especially disappointed to see what could have become an icon experience such a quick demise.

“I can honestly say the popcorn box enhanced my time in Savannah. Its construction and presence transformed the screening of my film into a participatory event,” wrote Elliot on the blog of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers.

“If it still existed, I’d tell people to go visit it.”

Elliot and others will be happy to know that for giant popcorn boxes at least, reincarnation is real.

Rather than hack it into firewood or leave it to gather dust backstage, Walsh thought of a way to bestow life upon the popcorn box once again–albeit somewhere other than the historic Lucas Theatre for the Arts.

She made a call to Dottie Kluttz of the Tybee Post Theater, who was delighted at the idea of adopting the prop.

“It fits right into the quirkiness of Tybee,” said Kluttz. “We’re so grateful the Lucas would think to help support our struggling little theater and help give us a community presence.”

As Tybee Island has no such ordinances against giant objects in public spaces, expect to see the resurrected popcorn box make appearances at the 2012 Polar Plunge and Tybee’s multifarious parades.