POSTED BY WILL COVIELLO ON WED, DEC 12, 2012 AT 6:08 PMbestofneworleans.com
Originally built in 1906, the Civic Theatre was the oldest theater among a crop of popular downtown theaters, including the Orpheum, Saenger and Loews. Renovations on the Civic are expected to be completed in December and events may be scheduled in January 2013, says theater general manager Gail Varuso.
The theater is being re-opened by a trio of partners including Brian Gibbs, Bryan Bailey, who works in film production and real estate, and the Solomon Group. The new marquee on O’Keefe Street was lit today, and a large crystal chandelier which formerly hung in the old Roosevelt Hotel was installed.
“We’re preserving some of the 1906 theater and bringing the use into modern times,” Bailey says.
The renovation combines historic restoration, including refinished plaster facades and ornamentation, and modern high tech systems. An integrated sound and lighting system will allow the control of stage and house lights, including the bar and bathrooms. The house floor can be raised or lowered for different configurations, and seating ranges from 720 to 1,150, for events ranging from theatrical productions to concerts or fashion shows. There are bars on three levels, and Neil Bodenheimer of the craft cocktail lounge Cure is developing the bar service plan.
The original theater entrance was on Baronne Street, and a Civic Theatre sign still stands there. The box office and entrance to the new theater are on O’Keefe Street. The original theater closed in the 1960s, says local historian Jack Stewart. The building housed the Civic Disco for several years but has been dormant for three decades.
Gibbs and Bailey began discussions about renovating the theater in September 2010, Bailey says. Construction started in April 2012. To do the project, the partners have made use of various tax credits, including the live performance theater tax credits, state and federal historic restoration credits and enterprise zone tax credits.
“The tax credits made this project feasible,” Bailey says.