The Strand Theatre in Shreveport Celebrates Big Birthday - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

The Strand Theatre in Shreveport Celebrates Big Birthday

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The Strand Theatre in Shreveport is throwing a big birthday bash!

Tuesday, the performing arts center celebrates 30 years since it reopened in 1984.

Of course, The Strand has a history that dates back much further than that.

It first opened its doors in 1925 as an opera house.

It was nicknamed the "Million Dollar Theatre" because of its towering chandeliers, a 900 pipe organ, and beautiful murals.

It was also referred to as the greatest theatre of the south.

By the 1950's, it evolved into a movie cinema.

However, in 1977, it went dark.

Thankfully people in the community said they wouldn't let the theater say closed --- and they didn't.

"There were all kinds of campaigns during those days,” said Danny Fogger, Executive Director of The Strand Theatre, “‘The Strand is Grand’, ‘Don't Let the Lights go out at the Strand’, tee shirts, just all kinds of things."

And it worked.

"The Strand was renovated back in ‘78-‘84 which has been 30 years ago,” said Fogger. “We reopened December of 1984 as the performing arts center that we are today."

Yes, it opened as a different kind of venue but kept all of the grand, old details it was famous for.

"To build something of this nature the way it is today, would probably cost 40 or 50 million dollars," said John Manno, President of The Strand Board.

You can see the history of this place in the walls and the tales from the olden days are still told.

"We have always had a tale that there was a way to get out of the building underneath the streets of Shreveport to the hotel across the street from a gentleman's smoking parlor,” said Jenifer Hill, General Manager of The Strand. “I had two young men come in about six weeks ago and told me they were going to purchase the old Saenger drug store which is a block up the street and said floor two and floor three is a virtually untouched brothel and they took us up there and it certainly appears to be. It just adds an interesting touch to the tales we hear about the strand."

This old building has seen some big stars in her life.

"John Wayne was in here to launch the premiere of Horse Soldiers. We've had Bill Cosby, Sinbad, Jerry Seinfeld has been in the building,” said Fogger, “Wynona Judd has been in here a couple of times."

The old gal has also had a lot of work done often times emergency repairs.

"There are surprises around every corner, some of them not so great, like when the boiler went out," said Hill. "My second show here as they were loading in, I went downstairs and there was about two feet of water down in the basement. What I didn't know was that downtown Shreveport was apparently built on an old lake bed and we have three sump pumps that work down there continuously --- two of them had failed at the same time."

The repairs come at a high cost.

The restoration 30 years ago initially had a budget of $10 million but it got cut to $7 million.

So, many projects in need of repair back then are still in need.

"We get our money from our ticket buyers, our donors that we refer to as 'Friends of The Strand', and corporate sponsors,” said Fogger. “And we get a little bit of grant money but not a lot of grant dollars are available."

Most agree --- it's worth it.

It's not just a rare piece of American history, it's memories.

"My mom grew up here so she came up here and watched movies and stuff like that so it goes back for our family for nearly, I'd say 80 some odd years," said Manno.

"I grew up here too going to movies and it wasn't a big deal for my mom to drop me off down here when I was ten years old," said Hill.

"I came in here during the renovation days and looked at it. The plaster was falling off the ceiling, there were things that looked like lily pads growing up the walls, the floor was wet, the seats were wet, and roof was leaking, it was really in not good shape," said Fogger.

While she still needs work, the big hope is this 89 year old lady will have a lot of years left in her from Broadway shows, to big bands, and even the occasional movie.

"I want my grandchildren to come here and their grandchildren to come here and see shows," said Hill.

The Strand isn’t just a building to Shreveport.

"When you go to a lot of these modern theaters, they don't look like this,” said Manno. “This has character this has something that a lot of places dream about."

"It's an experience,” said Fogger. “I tell people don't come to The Strand to see the show, you need to come to The Strand and have an experience, the show's just part of it."

Tuesday, May 6 we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the renovation of The Strand.

Everyone is welcome at no cost.

The party kicks off at 5:30pm at The Strand on Louisiana Avenue in Shreveport.

There will also be live music from a band called Honallee, a birthday cake of course, and they'll announce the season performances.

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