The Strand Theatre
A Palace of Dreams
Sitting in the heart of downtown Shreveport, the beautiful Strand Theatre anchors the arts district now known as the West Edge. A one-of-a-kind classic, the Strand Theatre rivals the world’s finest opera houses. After extensive restoration the Strand reopened in 1984 to a SRO crowd, and has presented the highest quality entertainment for 33 seasons. Most recently, Shreveport’s own Academy Award winning William Joyce called the Strand “A Palace of Dreams.”
The Saenger Brothers & The Ehrlich Brothers
In 1900, brothers Julian and Abe Saenger, both pharmacists, owned and operated the Saenger Drug Store on the corner of Milam and Louisiana Streets in Shreveport. The Saengers’ fascination with the brand-new moving pictures prompted a purchase of the property at the corner of Crockett and Louisiana in downtown Shreveport. After some research and contact with the Ehrlich Brothers, who already owned and operated the Majestic theatre at 601 Milam Street, the two sets of brothers decided to embark on a joint venture. Their first was the “Saenger Theatre” at 620 Milam Street later known as The Capri.
Progressive Amusement for Progressive People
In May 1923, the Shreveport Times announced a new 2,500 seat opera house would be built at a cost of $750,000. Ground breaking on The Strand began in October 1923. After 19 months of construction, on July 3, 1925 the Strand Theatre opened with a production of the comic opera, The Chocolate Soldier. The “Million Dollar Theatre“ was air conditioned, and in the early days had its own full time orchestra on staff. The theatre boasted a 939 pipe Robert Morton “Golden Voice” Pipe Organ. The Strand opened as the “flagship” of what would become the Saenger chain of 320 theatres across the south. In 1927 the Saenger Brothers moved their corporate base to New Orleans, and between the years of 1928-1929, Saenger Theatres, Inc. sold to Paramount Publix for a reported $10 million.
During the War Years, all but 3 of the magnificent chandeliers were removed and sent to New Orleans during kilowatt rationing. In 1951, in keeping with trends of that period, the original marquee was removed and replaced with a 12 foot vertical neon sign and a turquoise facade was added. In 1954 the opera boxes were removed to facilitate cinemascope motion pictures. John Wayne and William Holden were special guests at The Strand Theatre for their new movie premier The Horse Soldier in 1959. The Strand continued to operate as a movie theatre through the mid 70’s, when it closed, sadly in decline.
The Strand is Grand
In 1976 ABC -Interstate Theatres donated the Strand to the newly formed Strand Theatre of Shreveport Corporation. Founders Mrs. Virginia Shehee, Mr. Jim Montgomery and Mr. Judd Tooke were instrumental in forming the 501(c)3 non profit corporation, receiving the donation and beginning the process of getting the community involved. During 7 years of painstaking restoration, the lost chandeliers were copied from photos, the opera boxes were replaced, the original marquee was replicated and the exterior was sandblasted to the original facade. In December of 1984 The Strand re-opened to the sounds of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and a SRO crowd. Celebrating its 33rd season as a performing arts venue, The Strand brings in touring Broadway shows, concerts, and plays, and serves as home to several dance companies. Today the communities of North Louisiana reap the benefits of all of these efforts by many to rescue, restore and reopen this magnificent theatre. It is a treasure that has been recognized nationally first by USA Weekend and the AMC Magazine as one of the top 5 glitziest theatres for live performance anywhere in the country.
The Strand interior includes ornate box seats, gilt edged mirrors and colors of deep burgundy and rich gold. It also features a magnificent ceiling and dazzling chandeliers, including the massive 14 ft tall main chandelier hanging in the center of the theatre, as well as the six murals of the “Muses of the Strand,” recreated by local artist Donna Moore in 1993.
As the cornerstone of the Arts Community in Shreveport-Bossier, the Strand is a viable and essential part of this community. The Strand understands the importance of changing and adapting to the needs of the people it serves. The shows presented by The Strand are specifically chosen to have broad appeal to serve a diverse community of age, gender, and ethnicity. Each year the booking process includes a study of which shows are touring, history of ticket sale trends, and community need for programming. The Strand works as an organization to be a part of what is happening in Shreveport and Bossier, in order to help bring about positive change. The Strand’s mission is to preserve the Strand by managing cultural events to enrich life and promote economic growth in the community.
The Strand Theatre is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media