Shreveport

Last Modified: September 13, 2008Strand Theatre

Designed by New Orleans architect Emile Weil and opened on July 3, 1925, the Strand Theatre in Shreveport still stands as a monument to the opulent style of architecture that was used during the early 1900ís to create large and lavish movie theaters with a pipe organ and an orchestra pit down front for the musicians. The Strandís pipe organ is an original Robert Morton "Golden Voice" with a total of 939 pipes. The Strand Theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As the Official State Theatre of Louisiana, it continues to host a continually changing roster of musical concerts and theatrical productions. In addition to its annual list of productions, the Strand Theatre also conducts a series of performances especially for children that brings about 12,000 young people from the schools to the theater each year.  

The strange rise and fall of the two men who built the Strand Theatre
  

Julian Henri Saenger and his brother Abe were both successful pharmacists who lived in Shreveport. Their drugstore contained a penny operated, hand cranked kinetograph where customers could watch short moving pictures. The Saenger brothers became fascinated as they watched people having fun with the machine and they foresaw the potential to develop a new business after discovering how well the Ehrlich brothers were doing with the Majestic Theatre at 610 Milam Street. The Saenger brothers decided to go into business with the Ehrlich brothers and their first joint venture was the Saenger Theatre at 620 Milam Street. In 1911, the Saenger brothers formed the Saenger Amusement Company and began building vaudeville theaters with movie projection capability throughout the South. The Saengerís theaters were notable for their architectural magnificence, their plush interiors, their live orchestral accompaniment, and their use of uniformed ushers to personally seat audience members.  

On July 3, 1925, the Saenger brothers opened the Strand Theatre in Shreveport with "The Chocolate Soldier," a comic opera. By 1927, the Saengers owned more than 300 theaters in the South, Havana and Mexico, and the Strand was known as the flagship of their empire. Very few of those original theaters still exist. In 1929, Julian Saenger sold the Saenger Amusement Company to his business partner, the Paramount Publix Corporation, for $10 million in stock. Unfortunately, Julianís timing couldnít have been worse because the sale occurred immediately prior to the huge stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. Within a few years, the Saenger family was bankrupt and financially ruined. Julian Saenger died suddenly in 1932 at the age of 59 and there were rumors that his death may not have occurred the way it was reported in the newspapers. Julian was buried near his parentsí graves in Shreveport.  

The Strand Theatre is located at 619 Louisiana Avenue at the corner of Crockett Street and Louisiana Avenue in downtown Shreveport, and their contact phone number is (318) 226-1481.