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I went to the Panorama only twice, both times in 1976 or ‘77. Once I went to see “Jaws” in a second run. I remember that “American Graffiti” was still showing to full houses at the Panorama at that time. The second time that I went I saw “The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday”. I had heard that this theatre was once a bowling alley. I don’t know if that is correct.
The Loew’s State Theatre and the Saenger Theatre are directly across Canal Street from each other. The entrances may be offset 50' or so with the Loew’s State entrance being closer to the foreground in the postcard.
I just searched Google Earth for the A & G Theatre. It seems that as of January, 2010, the theatre is not only standing but appears to have been repaired. The Google Earth image shows the building in better shape than before the storm.
I visited the Majestic Wednseday night to see “Young Frankenstein”. More correctly, I was in San Antonio for the first time and went to see th Majestic Theatre; “Young Frankenstein” happend to be playing that night. The theatre is spectacular. The lobby and foyer furniture are gone but the interior is very beautiful. The show was entertaining, and the site lines from the balcony were very good. The only dissappointment was the “no photograpy” rule which was strictly, but politely, enforced by the staff. Even after explaining that I was only interested in images of the building (not the patrons or the production), I was told that photograpy was not allowed. I would have gladly purchased a book about the facility if one were available.
I live in New Orleans. I’ve lived hear all of my life. The problems exposed by Katrina have always been here. Ingorance, racism, crime,poverty and corruption are a lifestyle to some here. In many ways, Katrina, although terribly destructive, opened doors to solve some of thoes problems. While their is still a great deal to be done, as far as getting the city to it’s pre-Katrina condition, the Saenger restoration is one of the truly bright spots. It is amazing how many people have been influenced by this one building. Almost everyone is excited to see this happen.
Check out the latest on the Saenger restoration at this site
The Loew’s State appears to be one of the filming locations for “The Vampire’s Assistant” opening today.
I’m sure that architects were aware of the work of their competition in the design of movie palaces. Considering the Loew/Lamb connection it is not surprising that Rapp & Rapp might attempt to design in the style of Lamb for one of their Loew’s commissions. While the Loew’s Jersey is stylistically similar to Keith’s Memorial, Loew’s Midland, and the San Francisco Fox, it easily to tell that it is not a Lamb design. Thomas Lamb, even at his most outrageous, shows a discipline, subtlety, and a level of taste seldom evident in the work of Rapp & Rapp. His ornament is always finely detailed and relatively historically correct. His sense of proportion is flawless and the arrangement of space is always logical. Rapp & Rapp on the other hand, tended to go to extreme lenghts for visual and spatial effects that often appeared overwrought.
More good news about the Saenger and a color interior photo at this website.
The following appeared as part of a public notice in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on 08-10-09:
The renovation of the Saenger Theatre will be partially funded in the amount of $13,000,000 by HUD CDBG funding (Community Development Block Grant).The proposed improvements consist of the following: “Complete restoration of historic public lobbies, lounges, and the audience chamber. "Reinstallation and restoration of decorative architectural lighting and replication of other interior design elements. "Upgrade and improvement of concession areas and bars. "Relocation of administrative offices, secure count-out rooms, and concessions storage and office space in the existing basement. "Replacement of the existing stage house with a new stage area and fly tower. "Newly designed loading facilities, back-of-house dressing, wardrobe, and crew room function areas to support the stage house. "Replacement of all mechanical, HVAC, and electrical systems. "Modification of the exterior to facilitate the new stage house and new entrance marquees at the three main entrances.
It appears that plans for the renovation are underway.
It looks as if the Saenger Theatre will be restored and reopened in 2001 I hope it works out. This link
Should bring you to the story in the New Orleans Times Picayune.
This is a link to the a photo of the interior of the Orpheum Theatre.
This web site has several interor and exterior views of the Orpheum & Saenger Theatre.
The El Capitan is a spectacular, historically accurate, restored building and, any renovation the converts it back to it’s art deco days, would be tasteless and idiotic.
This is an interior view of the Saenger Theatre taken in the 1950's
The Saenger Building is actually two seperate buildings. Along the Canal Street facade the Saenger only owns the entrance and arcade beyond. The remainder of the Canal Street facade is retail on the first floor with a small hotel on the upper floors. The two halves of the hotel are joined by corridors that pass immediatly behind the Canal Street entry arch. The commercial/hotel structure is for sale. The last I heard, was that a group of investors were attempting to buy the Joy, Loew’s State, Saenger, and Orpheum theatres to restore/re-open them as a live performance complex. This was several months ago.
The Saenger has had it’s roof replaced and has been dried out since Katrina. The building is currently stablized and I believe that the HVAC system is being used to prevent further damage.
The Loew’s state also has had it’s roof replaced and the HVAC system is operational. The building has seen extremely limited use since Katrina and was closed due to fire code violations. I do not know if any of these have been corrected.
I belive that very little has been done to the Joy Theatre since Katrina.
The Orpheum Theatre was purchased for slightly less that $700,000.00 shortly after Katrina. There was some work done to remove some of the storm damage. I do not know the current state of the building but believe that it is still awaiting repairs.
I hope my description of your grandfather’s theatre is pretty accurate. I really liked going there. My grandmother won a dance contest there in the 20’s doing the Charleston and the Big Apple.
The Famous Theatre in New orleans was also a reverse or backwards theatre.
The Civic was originally buit as the Schubert. The auditorium contained a balcony and a gallery as well as the ochestra floor. The stage was flanked by rectangular boxes on either side. The plaster decoration was Beaux-Art; Sam Stone was the architect. The sign mentioned above originally said “Poche”. A contest was held to rename the theatre using the same number of letters; “Civic” won.
In the late fifties and early sixties the theatre hosted some large road show presentations – BEN HUR and WEST SIDE STORY in particular.
In the late seventies it was turned into the CIVIC DISCO. When that came to an end, the building sat vacant. The current conversion is completly inappropriate to the original structure and a sad abuse of the historic tax credit system.
Unlike in the politically correct new millenum,handicap accessibility was not a public cause in 1945. Additionally, I believe that the word “cripple”, although grossly thoughtless and unkind, was fairly common in public usage at the time. This sort of public insensitivity even led FDR to hide his disability from the public.
The Interior of the Famous was by no means fabulous. The lobby ran the width of the building and faced Marigny Street. The lobby was divided into three sections- a square shaped area at both ends with a narrow area containing the concession stand in the middle. The theatre was entered at the northern (Claiborne Avenue) end. A part of this area was given over to the box office behind which was the public telephone encased in a plastic sea shell surround that glowed with pink light. The remaining walls in this area had a high wainscot of diamond tufted burgundy leather with brass nail heads. At the top of the wainscot was pink cove lighting which illuminated the deep blue walls above. Two pairs of tufted leather doors were located on the west wall which was the entry to the auditorium. On the south wall was a small door which led to a concession storage area under the stage. The concession area was arranged as follows: candy/service counter, popcorn machine, soda dispenser and punch fountain, hotdog cooker, candy service counter. I found the popcorn machine and hotdog cooker particularly fascinating when the movie was too scary. The ceiling concession stand was lowered and had cove lighting above that flooded the higher accordion-pleated wall with pink, yellow, blue and green fluorescent light. Across from the concession stand were poster display cases in niches formed by bricking up some of the original door openings. The floor was broken tile terrazzo. The south end of the lobby was similar to that described above except that it had two porcelain drinking fountains -one pink, one pale blue – mounted to a shiny black tile wall. Behind this wall was a stair up to the ladies lounge and restroom. This was the nicest restroom in the building, and the lounge was located behind the windows that faced Marigny Street.
The auditorium of the Famous was interesting if only for its configuration. When you entered the auditorium the audience faced you. From this point you walked up to your seats with the stage behind you. I remember the seating having three aisles – one at each side wall and one at the center. You looked at the high front of the balcony as you entered. It was so high that the projection booth was located below the balcony seats. The seats in the front few rows of the theatre were painted wood; the remainder had red upholstery. The stage of the famous was high, high enough that people entering the theatre would not block your view. The stage front was covered in tufted burgundy leather to match the lobby. There was no proscenium arch to speak of, but the stage opening was covered by a gold contour curtain lighted by colored footlights. At either side of the stage openings were walls with a simple panel design and carved plaster masks of comedy and tragedy which I found frightening as a child. The remaining wall surfaces of the auditorium were covered in acoustic tile laid in a running bond pattern and painted deep blue. Large art deco wall sconces consisting of tiered milk glass half cylinders with thin brass accents were spaced along the side walls and continued under the balcony. The wall sconces had red, yellow and green light bulbs in them which produced a rainbow effect. The ceiling was pressed metal painted gold with large circular fluorescent house lights. The balcony soffit was painted plaster with red cove lighting. The floor was wood with carpeted aisles. The auditorium was always freezing cold no matter what the weather was outside
At the rear of the auditorium was one of the strangest menâ€™s rooms ever constructed. It was built on a set of stairs that went below grade. As you entered on the right side you were immediately faced with about four steps descending to a small landing where the lavatory was located. Turning left the landing got wider. A small toilet stall was located at this point. Turning right and then left again there were more stairs descending to the largest expanse of straight wall in the room. It had an exposed perforated galvanized pipe at the top from which water cascaded down the wall to the trench drain in the floor. All surfaces were finished with black and white ceramic mosaic tile.
I cannot speak of the balcony area because I was never up there. I can say that the balcony was accessed from a separate entrance at the rear of the theatre facing Claiborne Avenue. This entry opened directly onto a stair that lead to the balcony. The menâ€™s room described above was located beneath these stairs. When I was very young, I asked my parents about the balcony. They said that only black people sat up there and cautioned me never to sit below the balcony rail because people would spill drinks and popcorn on us.
Over the period when I attended the theatre there were a few changes. In the mid-sixties the seating as well as the aisle arrangement was changed. New seats, possibly used seats from the downtown Joy Theatre, were installed. There was one bank of seats with about seven seats in each row located along the side walls, an aisle, and a center bank with about fourteen seats per row. A cross aisle was located in each of the side banks of seats about two thirds of the distance from then screen. We always sat in the last row before the cross aisle on the right side of the theatre. This was my dadâ€™s favorite spot. Another renovation was more extensive. The art deco wall sconces were removed and long troughs were constructed about ten feet up the walls. Red drapery was installed which covered the walls from the ceiling and ended in the trough. Pink fluorescent lighting in the trough made the bottom edge of the drapery glow and air conditioning made the drapes ripple like waves. I found this particularly entertaining when I wasnâ€™t interested in the double-feature. The menâ€™s room was also renovated at this time with new fixtures and new beige and white ceramic mosaic tile. The last tow rows of seats were removed and a wood and glass crying room was constructed. At the south end of the lobby the poster cases were removed and a glass display case was constructed containing gifts that could be redeemed based on the number of times you attended the theatre. The final renovation that I remember involved the construction of new restrooms at the south end of the lobby. At this time the older restrooms were closed.
The last time I went to the Famous was in the early seventies. My dad had finally broken down and purchased two window units to air condition the house. The Famous was no longer an escape form the New Orleans weather and the movies werenâ€™t as good. The Famous was great for a kid growing up and I developed a life-long love of the movies from going there. My experiences at that neighborhood theatre have had a major impact on my life.
The Famous Theatre was opened in 1927 and replaced an earlier theatre on the site.l In fact, the new Famous was built around and enclosing the existing theatre. Legend has it that the existing theatre was demolished overnight and the new Famous opened the following day allowing for almost continuous performances. The theatre exterior was designed in the spanish revival style. It was essentially a textured stucco rectangular building. There was a raised section of the building over the balcony near the Elysian Fields side of building. The front facade consisted of two square towers, one at each end; a center section with casement windows,a central stucco panel outlined with stud lights containing the theatre name, and arched head doors at the ground level sheltered by a spanish tile roof. The towers were punctuated with arched head, divided lite casment windows near the top and crowned with spanish tile hip roofs with decorative rafter tails. The towers also had simple retangular plaster panels and stud lights. My memories are from the early 1960’s. By this time, the stud lighting was no longer in use and neon outlined the theatre name. A large vertical neon sign was located at the corner of Marigny Street and Claiborne Avenue until September of 1965 when it was damaged by Hurricane Betsy. A horizontal red neon sign procaliming “Famous Theatre” was located atop the roof facing Elysian Fields Avenue and during the 1960’s additional neon was added to the tops of the towers and to the Caliborne Avenue facade. There was no marquee. Poster cases were located at the first floor. The box office was located at the base of the tower at the intersection of Marigny and Claiborne. It was staffed by an ancient lady and young girls from the neighborhood and had an old fashioned change machine which delivered coins via a series of ornate terraced chutes.
It is unbeliveable – I live in New Orleans. But, living in New Orleans all of my life it was almost inevitable that the socio-economic diaster that has hit would have eventually happened – Katrina or not. Orleans Parish has been slowly dying since 1927 when the Mississippi River flooded the city and sent the burgeoning financial industry scurring for higher ground. Over the ensuing 80 years unbelivably corrupt state and local politicians have literally chased the majority of the business interests out of the city. They have created a public school system which is essentially worthless. The primary industry is now tourism and the associated service industries which suport it. The tax base in Orleans Parish, with a
limited number of middle class families, an enormous number of people on public welfare, and a small upper class, is incapable of properly funding the city. Most politicians as well as most of the citizens (white, african-american , etc.) are horrible rascists only interested in mainatainig power over their part of the “chocolate city” as Mayor Nagin described it. Now the economic situation has caused everyone to scramble. I hope the Saenger, Loew’s State, and Orpheum can come back soon. I miss attending the plays at the Saenger and the concerts at the Orpheum.
Hopefully this wasn’t the Times-Picayune in New Orleans complaining. They should be complimented that anyone would ever directly quote their pathetic, pulpy, prose.
I forwarded the photo to Mr.Rene Brunet, local movie theatre expert, to ask about the “Joy’s” sign. He said that this was never a theatre and had no connection with the Joy Theatre. His recolection was that this was a furniture store.
I’ve been looking at opening day descriptions of this theatre in the local papers. They refrence two large frescos on either side of the auditouirm painted by Henri Robert. Does anyone have a picture that shows this or know anything about Henri Robert? Were these truly frescos – dry pigment applied over wet plaster? Do they still exist under the wall covering?