There's Joy in the Canal Street Theater District in downtown New Orleans as the Joy Theater reopens as a New Orleans music & entertainment venue and multi-purpose space this month, December 2011, with several shows including a big New Year's Eve concert party. The Joy is the first, and hopefully not the last, historic downtown movie palace to be restored and re-purposed in New Orleans.
CANAL STREET MOVIE PALACES IN NEW ORLEANS
Canal Street was once the theater district in downtown New Orleans with four historic, elegant, old-school movie palaces, The Saenger is on the French Quarter side of Canal Street.
The Joy and Loew's State Palace are on the other side of the neutral ground. The Orpheum is actually right off of Canal Street on University Place.
In their heyday, a trip to the movies was an event in an elegant atmosphere with features like crystal chandeliers, fine architectural details, as well as air conditioning or earlier cooling devices. All four originally opened in the 1920's originally featuring silent movies or vaudeville or both.
The elegant Saenger was the premier theater of New Orleans. It had a fantastic atmosphere with classical features and a dark blue ceiling with moving clouds and twinkling stars. It was such an interesting and enchanting theater, sometimes it was hard to keep your attention on the stage.
In the old days, a huge custom pipe organ played for silent films. The Saenger was also a venue for vaudeville and other live shows from the beginning. The theater was operating primarily as the major live theater venue in New Orleans, hosting traveling Broadway shows , concerts, and more, before damage by Hurricane Katrina and the city flooding shut it down.
Although plans, rumors, and hopes about reopening the Saenger continue to circulate, it remains shuttered. Most of the plays that would have been booked at the Saenger in years past, including the Broadway musical series, are now held at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.
The Orpheum opened originally as a vaudeville site and soon added movies which came to dominate. Hurricane Katrina damage also shuttered the Orpheum. Before Katrina, this modern music and theater spot was the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra's home base. The Orpheum was also a popular place for dance school revues.
THE JOY OF CANAL STREET
As for the Joy, it's huge neon marque is a Canal Street landmark and has now finally returned to its old glory.
This corner movie theater has been completely renovated , including its balcony and ticket booth, and in keeping with the original art deco theme. The Joy plans to be a showcase for music, comedy and theater in New Orleans and will be available for rental. It won't replay its movie theater role with regularly scheduled films as in years past, although there are movie screens available for film festivals and other such special events.
The renovated Joy features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, video monitors, a built in stage, fixed bars, dressing rooms, and more. The theater is designed to host concerts, theater productions, private parties, and more.
The balcony seats 253 people and the first floor has a flexible seating plan that can handle seated shows, general admission, receptions, banquets, and private parties.. The entire place can hold up to 900 people.
The Joy Theater closed back in 2003. It was purchased in summer 2011 by NOLA Theatre District LLC when news reports said plans were to reopen the Joy in the first quarter of 2012. So, it seems the Joy will actually open ahead of schedule during New Year's week.
THE JOY OF OPENING & NEW YEAR'S EVE
December 29, 2011 is the big opening night for the redone Joy, at 1200 Canal Street, with a concert by the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas. The Grammy award winner knows how to energize a crowd. As a new "...upscale venue to see great live music", spokesperson Sandie McNamara said, "It's only fitting that Irma Thomas would be our opening performance". And the opening act for opening night will be Lance Ellis. It all starts at 8 p.m.
On Friday, December 30, 2011, The Soul Rebels will perform at the Joy with special guest Cyril Neville's Tribe 13.
The Joy's big New Year's Eve Party will feaure music by Kermit RUffins & the Barbecue Swingers as well as Big Sam's Funky Nation. It's one of the great options for New Year's Eve in New Orleans. The December 31st event will include an open bar from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
If you are ready to make some 2012 plans, there are already two shows scheduled in January. "Glitz - the Art of Female Impersonaton" on Jan 7, 2012 promises to "shock and delight" with impersonations of stars such as Liza Minnelli, Judy Garlandm, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Cher Lady Gaga and more. On January 13, "The Joint's Jumpin' " at the Joy with this musical revue of New Orleans R&B alongwith an opening act by Jodi Borrello.
Tickets are available now for all of these shows through Ticketmaster via the Joy website.