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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinema Yak   » Okay, so what about the Louisiana movie theatres we're going to lose?

Author Topic: Okay, so what about the Louisiana movie theatres we're going to lose?
David Morrison
New Member

Posts: 46
From: Los Angeles, CA
Registered: Jul 2004

 - posted August 30, 2005 10:15 PM      Profile for David Morrison   Email David Morrison         Edit/Delete Post 
Saw a Loew's in New Orleans that looked pretty much destroyed.

Any other horror stories?

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Jim Rankin
(Jim passed away in December 2006)
Posts: 123
From: Milwaukee, WI
Registered: Oct 2003

 - posted August 31, 2005 07:59 AM      Profile for Jim Rankin   Email Jim Rankin         Edit/Delete Post 
Movie palaces are pretty substantial buildings so it is likely that the venerable SAENGER as well as others will remain standing today, but as to their interior conditions and suitability for re-opening, that is anyone's guess at this point. Since the minimum flood depth seems to be 3 feet, even if the doors did hold, it is likely that some mud and water slipped in. While our concern is more with the survival of people, we can only hope that some of our cinemas also survived, though there is now actual question as to whether the authorities will allow the city to survive! But where does one move millions of people and replace thousands of buildings? Yes, there may not be another hurricane like Katrina for a great many years, but the geography says that it will all happen again someday.
(Here are some fine photos of the SAENGER: )

[ August 31, 2005, 11:12 AM: Message edited by: Jim Rankin ]

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Dave Felthous

Posts: 186
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Jun 2003

 - posted August 31, 2005 09:15 PM      Profile for Dave Felthous   Email Dave Felthous         Edit/Delete Post 
Sorry, but right now my concern is with the people who are struggling for their lives in New Orleans, not what happens to their theaters.

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Scott D. Neff
Tour Guide

Posts: 661
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Feb 2003

 - posted September 03, 2005 05:31 PM      Profile for Scott D. Neff   Email Scott D. Neff         Edit/Delete Post 
New Orleans folk are a hearty bunch -- they'll continue.

The amount of history (theatre or otherwise) that this disaster has eliminated will forever change the face of one of the most noteworthy cities in America... and I think many of the natives would be the first to lament the destruction of the character of their city.

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Jeff Arellano
Senior Member

Posts: 685
From: Monterey Park, CA
Registered: Jun 2003

 - posted September 04, 2005 09:34 AM      Profile for Jeff Arellano   Email Jeff Arellano         Edit/Delete Post 
Today in the LA Times they were comparing this to the last major tragedy a US City had: San Francisco 1906.

The city will bounce back.

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William Hooper

Posts: 82
From: Mobile, AL
Registered: Mar 2003

 - posted September 08, 2005 12:05 AM      Profile for William Hooper   Email William Hooper         Edit/Delete Post 
It's hard to say for most of the first-run theatres in New Orleans. The Prytania, New Orleans' last single-screen historic neighborhood theatre is in the Garden District on Prytania Street. The Garden District mostly escaped flooding, apparently, but some sections didn't: I have a friend who lives on Napoleon Ave. in the Garden District who had water up to his calves on his first floor - & the house is a 1/2 floor above the ground.

On Canal Street, Landmark's Canal Place is on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the Canal Place building, so it's likely OK.

Outside of downtown, it's even harder to guess. Algiers, Chalmette, etc. had spots that were dry, & some underwater.

I have been looking for the historic theatres in photos accompanying news stories on the web, & have seen only the Joy
(its vertical sign is visible far back on the left in the above photo of Canal Street)
and the State Palace (formerly Loew's State)
The State Palace is the entire Spanish-themed building directly behind the 2 figures in the foreground; the Joy is the building to its right. The 2 men are apparently standing on the sidewalk on the opposite corner from the State Palace on Canal Street)

Below is a copy&paste of something I wrote for a previous inquiry about the historic NOLA theatres. I had forgotten about the Joy, which is closed, & I'm not sure if the owner is particularly attached to keeping the theatre on the lot. In NOLA historic districts, owners are prohibited from razing historic structures, so if they want the lot for something else, typically they just let the buildings deteriorate & fall down. They do that quickly if there is roof damage, as the frequent heavy rains enter & rot the insides. It's faster if the interior is plaster.

Also, the oldest theatre in NOLA, the Shubert/Poche/Civic is actually just a former theatre now; it was gutted & was in the process of being converted to condos when the storm hit.

Another also: the hurricane struck the MS coast, & went up through Biloxi, Hattiesburg, Meridian, & Tupelo. There is no word on the Saenger theatres in Biloxi & Hattiesburg, the Temple in Meridian is apparently OK, & no word on the Comus/Strand in Tupelo. Communication & mobility in these areas have been & still are very bad.

The worrisome thing about these theatres is roof damage with the frequent heavy coastal rains. It's actually been very dry since the storm, but that's bound to end soon, & access to NOLA may be impossible for months.

A recent word: someone who stayed in NOLA apparently had access to the Saenger & reported to Cecil Whitmire at the Alabama in Birmingham that the NOLA Saenger had roof damage, & that the organ console was lost due to being underwater. It's interesting in that the console was original (1927), & was saved in the 1927 New Orleans flood by organist Rosa Rio, who ran over to the theatre as the water rose & hit the button on the lift to raise the console. No such savior this time.

Below is the copy&pasted info mentioned above:


The Saenger is a great theatre in New Orleans, but also very affected are the very active venues the 1926 Thomas Lamb's State Palace (formerly Loew's) on Canal Street across the street from the Saenger, & Lansburgh & Stone's 1921 Orpheum 1/2 block away on University Place.

I don't have an interior photo of the Orpheum here, but there are
some of the State Palace at:

The condition of the New Orleans theatres is very worrisome in that photos have shown Canal Street has at some point flooded to a depth of at least 3 or 4 feet. With the power out, the sump pumps couldn't get the water out, & anyway the water would have no place to go as it's pumped into the municipal drains which would be overrun at that point. At 4 feet above Canal Street, all the mechanical rooms (AC, boilers, electrical service entry, breaker panels, etc.) will have been underwater for a while & damaged. Wiring conduit will have been completely filled
with water, further deteriorating any cotton-covered wiring which may still remain, corroding splices in junction boxes, etc. The
auditoriums are excavated sloping floors, so everything in the auditoriums on the floor & sides will have been underwater: bottom of the prosc & side walls, seats, carpets, etc., not just partway through the house but all the way back.

Compounding this is likely roof damage. There's been little rain
since the hurricane, but there will be, & theatre interior survival after hurricanes on the gulf coast has been completely dependent on very quick repair of the roof after the storm. Otherwise, the plaster interiors quickly disintegrate, dropping chunks of the ceiling, peeling off the walls, etc. Roof damage & entry of water there are the biggest threats to the theater. Unfortunately, with New Orleans undergoing a lockdown possibly for months for municipal emergency & cleanup services before
contractors, etc. for individual buildings being allowed into the
city, there will be many storms & much rain entering any damaged roofs & destroying the plaster interiors. Longer term, even after the roof is repaired, the water which entered rusts the metal lath behind the plaster & causes intermittent detachment of chunks of the interior. This damage is not confined to only the auditorium, of course.

The New Orleans State Palace, Saenger, & Orpheum are very much

Besides New Orleans, there are a number of historic MS theatres in heavily-hit areas that can't be easily accessed for ssessment: the Saenger in Biloxi, the A&G in Bay St. Louis, & northward into the state.
For example, Meridian, MS was heavily hit, but a MS ATOS member
reports that the Temple Theatre in MS is fortunately not damaged.

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William Hooper

Posts: 82
From: Mobile, AL
Registered: Mar 2003

 - posted October 03, 2005 11:09 PM      Profile for William Hooper   Email William Hooper         Edit/Delete Post 
Looks like the Prytania in the Garden District is the first cinema in New Orleans back up & running after Katrina!

Landmnark's Canal Place Cinemas is still closed - the Canal Place building on the 3rd floor of which the theatre is located was apparently heavily damaged by the hurricane & intensive looting of the commercial spaces.

The State Palace looks like it will be the first of the historic houses operating again. The roof of the lantern atop the fly tower was destroyed, there were several damaged sections of the roof, etc., but the damage was tarped & tarred before the subsequent rains. The stage is typical in that it has a masonite covering, & when the roof of the lantern went, the rain during the hurricane came in & ruined it. Afterwards, the flooding entered the auditorium (& basement) to slightly above stage level. They got it pumped out, & it's powered up. Fortunately, the State Palace has its seating removed in the orchestra (all forward of beneath the balcony rail) for its concert venue configuration, so the seats weren't affected except for the first couple of rows (which begin right under the balcony rail). They've got a show scheduled for 10/29.

The Orpheum & the Saenger have problems which will likely take longer. The Joy, which is for sale, hasn't had the water pumped out & its basement is still full of water to sidewalk level (meaning the excavated auditorium is also full to that level). Its roof looks OK, but the water in the basement & auditorium combined with no AC are likely destroying the interior even above the waterline due to humidity. Sad, sad Joy.

They had 2 diesel pumps with about 1' dia. hoses running nonstop 3 days 7a-4p at the Orpheum to pump that huge basement. It's a beautiful theatre:
Unfortunately it's working on problems due mostly to the flooding (which went over the stages in all the theatres).

The pumping contractor at the Saenger estimated the water there as 800,000 gallons. The Saenger was in the middle of some restoration/renovation work when the hurricane arrived, & fortunately all the seats on the floor were out. They've got some other, major, issues, though. The Saenger has announced on their web page that due to "significant damage", they are postponing their entire 2005-2006 season.

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