629 North Main Street,
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The Historic North Theatre Performing Arts Center is a beautifully restored facility presenting all types of theatrical productions. The North Theatre originally opened in August 1947 as Danville, Virginia’s finest movie and vaudeville house, with a seating capacity of 608. Unfortunately for the owner, Mr. Leonard Lea, TV hit about the time of opening and he never had a vaudeville performance. The theatre remained open until mid-1976. After that time it was an auction house, a number of different churches, and, finally from 1990 to 2003, Carolyn’s House of Flowers.
Because of the visionary efforts to reopen the North Theatre by local leaders, in 2003 a group was formed who purchased the theatre, a former restaurant next door with residence on the second floor and a third building next to the restaurant, which had been a two-story residence. The president of the group was local philanthropist Roy Gignac who was also a major donor. All told, over 3.5 million dollars was spent on the purchase and restoration of the complex which opened on February 25, 2005. The stage, originally 42 feet wide by 18 feet deep was enlarged to 42 feet wide by 38 feet deep. They had many wonderful productions, but because of a limited marketing budget and such high restoration costs they closed in 2010.
In September of 2011, celebrity magician Wayne Alan, America’s Only World Champion Illusionist discovered the North Theatre on the web (on Cinema Treasures) and found it was closed. Despite being five hours from his home in Annapolis, MD, something told him to look into the situation. He researched ownership of the building and found it was ‘For Sale’. After a series of phone conversations and e-mails he would be spurred on to visit the theatre in person. On November 8, 2011 he called Mr Gignac and was told that an offer had been made for the property. He later found that the offer had been made just five minutes before his call. He knew he had to make a move. The next morning he drove the 5 hours to Danville from his home in Annapolis. He immediately fell in love with the facility and the town of Danville.
That night the 100 year old brick facade above the restaurant part of the complex, which had been leaning away from the building when he saw it earlier in the day, collapsed. The next morning he was told by the lady at the front desk of his hotel “The North Theatre exploded and collapsed last night”. Most prospective buyers would have walked away, but not Wayne Alan. When he drove over to the theatre, he discovered what he had expected. The wall did fall, but there was no other damage to the building. He also knew that the wall would have to be replaced, so gravity actually saved him thousands of dollars for demolition.
The new owner will be booking top celebrity touring concerts and shows to perform in this 500-seat theatre, which has 384 seats in the orchestra level and 116 in the balcony. In addition, Mr. Alan’s theatre touring show “Magic of the Masters-the World’s Most Famous Illusions” – a modern look at Magic’s Golden Oldies will appear there once a month. It is a family friendly show with a touch of Broadway, Las Vegas and Branson combined. This big stage magic show will be the North Theatre’s resident show (like Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center, which has been there for over 20 years), and will be presented on the second Saturday of each month. The theatre will also host a number of other productions, festivals and special events.
We will strive to live up to the North Theatre’s first advertisement in the 1947 newspaper “Visit Danville’s new and finest theatre for the best in entertainment”.
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