New owners Niki McCretton and Marc Parrett run Stuff and Nonsense
A small puppet theatre company plans to re-open the derelict Lyric Theatre in Bridport.
The company, Stuff and Nonsense, hopes to convert the attic space into artist studios as well as producing and hosting productions.
The previous owners intended to convert the building into flats but planning permission was refused by the council.
Built in 1746 as a chapel, the Lyric has also been a local meeting hall, a cinema and ballet school.
Many of the original fittings are still in place, from the elaborate gold and burgandy flock wallpaper in the main auditorium to traditional wooden ballet rails along the walls of the former rehearsal room.
"It harks back to an old era of theatre," said new co-owner Marc Parrett, who is also a puppet maker and performer.
"If we refurbished the building too much it would lose a lot of its charm, it would be really nice to keep that legacy," said Niki McCretton, who runs Stuff and Nonsense alongside Mr Parrett.
"It would have been criminal to have turned it into flats."
The re-opened building has attracted a lot of local interest.
Ms McCretton said: "We had a guy who was a projectionist in the 1940s, he told us during the war films were shown here, and you couldn't see the screen for cigarette smoke."
The main auditorium needs some refurbishment.
"A police officer came in and cried because he got so nostalgic about how when he was a boy he was in a play here."
The pair first heard from a neighbour that the building was up for sale 18 months ago.
"We didn't really think as theatre makers we would have the money to buy something, especially in this area of west Dorset," said Ms McCretton.
"But it just wouldn't go away and in the end we just had to make it happen."
She admits that "years of fundraising" lie ahead in order to to upgrade the venue to modern building standards.
The company is working on five productions in the run-up to Christmas, including one for the Lighthouse in Poole where Niki McCretton is resident artist.
However it will be a few months before the Lyric is ready for its comeback as a theatre venue.
"We'll probably put something on in February," she said, "but we want to play it by ear."