Saenger Theatre

143 N. Rampart Street,
New Orleans, LA 70112

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Showing 51 - 75 of 131 comments

Bway on February 13, 2008 at 9:10 am

WHAT a sad state the Saenger has fallen into since the last time I saw it 4 years ago! Here’s a photo I took of the Saenger Theater about two weeks ago when I was in New Orleans for Mardis Gras. New Orleans looked good…at least the touristy areas like the French Quarter, Downtown, and the Garden District looked as beautiful as usual…. They need our tourist dollars desperately, so please visit New Orleans, they are ready and waiting, and there’s nothing wrong with the areas anyone would visit as a tourist.

But since they did get some water along Canal St during the flood, the theaters along Canal suffered greatly. Even though it wasn’t terribly flooded like other areas, remember a foot of water on Canal St is brutal for the theaters, which remember, you enter at ground level into, but SLOPE down to the stage…so a foot of water may not seem like much outside….but as it rushes into a theater towards the stage, it inundates an orchestra level…. All four of the theaters along Canal, the Saenger, the State, and the Joy are now closed (the Joy was closed prior to the flood, but usable). The Orpehum alos had serious damage, but I forgot to check the place out to see if it reopened.

Anyway, here’s a photo of the sad Saenger Theater, which certainly saw better days. It’s status can also be changed to closed until further notice too….it even had a for sale sign on it….

Click here for some current photos of the Saenger Theater

Click here for photo 1

Click here for photo 2

Click Here for photo 3

shoeshoe14 on December 17, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I was watching “Ray” last night. I noticed the marquee of the Saenger and they did a performance inside the theater in 2004. You can just make out that it’s atmospheric from the stage looking out on either ends of the walls leading up to the balcony. Wish you could see it all, though.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm

Celloman, the Robert Morton is under the able care of John Hiltonsmith of Memphis. The management company is VERY supportive of the organ, knows its history and value and fully intends to maintain the organ in as close to original form as possible. That said, the economics involved in just getting the building open again are considerable. Word from John (who is also staff organist at the Memphis Orpheum and an award winning, multi-faceted, professional musician) is that the flood damage was minimal – confined to the blower and lower half of the console. The chambers were untouched – see my note from November 29 2005 above. The console suffered less damage than would be expected, it can be rebuilt rather than replaced. Obviously we can’t fault them for not tackling the organ project before the venue itself is repaired.

Roloff on July 18, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Here’s a photo I took, very much like Geralds, taken just a month later, in the last week of July of 2000, when the Siggraph Conventions Film fest was held at the Saenger. View link

celloman on June 10, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Does anyone know if there are plans to restore the Robert Morton organ?

kencmcintyre on January 15, 2007 at 7:24 am

Well, FDR had political reasons for hiding his disability as well. Given that the country was mired in a depression in 1932, the people probably wouldn’t have elected someone in a wheelchair. Interesting that the press played along as well. Imaging that today.

jazzland on January 15, 2007 at 3:45 am

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.

kencmcintyre on January 9, 2007 at 6:23 pm

In 1945, a handicapped patron bought a ticket and was told that “cripples are not admitted to the theater on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays”. He sued and was awarded $250:

abarry33 on December 18, 2006 at 12:15 pm

For extensive history and photgraphs about the Saenger chain of Theatres, go to this web site.

Bway on December 8, 2006 at 1:44 am

I loved your city the many times I have come to it (before Katrina), but yes, I did notice a strong disparity between “those that had, and those that didn’t”, and that was just from experiencing the city in a week or two week period at a time. Unfortunately, even I could see that the city’s only real business seemed to be tourism, and once out of the tourist area, there was some real poverty there. I can’t even imagine what it must be like now with the devastation outside of the main parts of the city. Even then a street such as Canal St was plagued with a “has been” look. Beautiful old buildings along it’s stretch, but vacant stores on ground level, and vacant apartments above seemed to be the norm, especually as you ventured on Canal further away from the river.
There seemed to be a glow of hope once the streetcar was extended, and it seemed to be cleaning up each time I returned it looked a little better, but now, with the Katrina setback, I am sure everything is uncertain. It has to be a strange way to live.
Hopefully time will heal.

jazzland on December 7, 2006 at 3:38 am

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.

Bway on December 6, 2006 at 8:57 am

Actually, ALL of New Orleans right now is a chicken and egg scenario unfortunately. It’s unbelieveable what happened to that city.

Bway on December 6, 2006 at 8:11 am

Wow, very sad. I believe the Orpheum is at a similar progression unfortunately. very sad. Again, if these two theaters are in such horrible shape after the flood, just imagine what the Joy must look like, which was already deteriorating before the flood….

I was suppposed to go on business to New Orleans this coming year, but those plans were transferred elsewhere. I may get there in about a year though, so hopefully by then things will look brighter.

Bway on December 6, 2006 at 7:05 am

That was supposed to read “by design, sloped”, not “ny design”….

Bway on December 6, 2006 at 7:04 am

Me too, it’s such a shame, as it was a beautiful place, and I think it was doing well before the flood. As well as the Orpheum, which I think had the phiharmonic at it. Unfortunately, theaters are obviously ny design, sloped….so all the water just rolled in right to towards the stage that is even lower of course than street level. Bad, real bad.

Bway on December 6, 2006 at 6:48 am

Yes, as well as the Orpheum. Of course, they aren’t closed (supposedly) permanently, which “closed” might suggest. The Joy was abandoned long before the flood, so “closed” is correct. I don’t know how CT handles “temporarily” closed theaters such as these New Orleans theaters like the Saenger and Orpheum, as they really aren’t supposedly “permanently” closed, but are only closed because of the New Orleans flood damage.

Bway on December 6, 2006 at 6:13 am

Wow, what a difference from the last time I was there a couple years ago….before the flood. I can’t imagine what the Joy Theater must look like, as that one was abandoned even before the flood. When I was last there, it was Superbowl Sunday in 2004, and they opened up the Joy Theater for some sort of Superbowl event (I didn’t go, as I went to something on Bourbon St, but I guess they projected the football game on the screen). Anyway, even though the Joy was abandoned for years prior, obviously, it was still somewhat “usable” for events, even if run down. I highly doubt it is now after the flood though…..
I hear even the gorgeous Orpheum recieved terrible water damage, destroying a lot of the wood, seating, and musical instruments.

JimRankin on September 15, 2006 at 10:09 am

It was not unusual for a theatre to inspire kindred names in its locality, for often it was the largest structure in a neighborhood and acted as a beacon of sorts allowing locals to say ‘we are just a block from the JOY’, or whatever.

Here in Milwaukee there was the TOWER movie palace, and within a few years of its opening there appeared the Tower Drugs, Tower Cleaners, and Tower Records, among others. Once the theatre disappeared, so did such namesakes, one by one. Today, no resident there would attach any significance to the term ‘Tower.’ Sic transit gloria!

CSWalczak on September 15, 2006 at 10:05 am

This site has a good picture of the store on Rampart:
View link
It would be easy to mistake the vertical sign for one on a theater. Apparently there was also a Joy’s Furniture Store in Baton Rouge.

jazzland on September 15, 2006 at 9:29 am

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.

Bway on September 14, 2006 at 4:15 am

AH, I didn’t think of that. It was probably just a store.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on September 14, 2006 at 3:28 am

“Joy’s” must have been retail/commercial: maybe a department store? Where’re all the old Maison Blanche employees when you need them to talk about the competition down the street, around the corner and off to the left?

jazzland on September 14, 2006 at 3:20 am

I’m confused about the “Joy’s” sign also. This picture is definitly showing the Canal Street and Rampart Street sides of the Saenger. The “Joy’s” sign is on Rampart Street in the photo.

Bway on September 13, 2006 at 3:34 pm

Now I am confused too. What was the “Joy’s” Theater? I know the “Joy” Theater is on Canal St, but that is on the other side of Canal, so it couldn’t be in the back ground of the angle the Saenger was taken at.
Was the “Joy’s” another theater? If so did it have another name, as I can’t find a “Joy’s” theater on the site, only the “Joy” which we are all familiar with..

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on September 13, 2006 at 3:28 am

jazzland, thanks for your excellent answer to my question of 9-9-06. Interesting that New Orleans' two largest theatres were built with such similar lobby plans. But then, I personally haven’t seen any other theatres the actually spanned an entire block – allowing fully developed (though secondary) entrances on three sides.

ken mc, I too was confused for a moment looking at the 1963 photo listed above and seeing the name “Joy’s” in the background. If I’m not mistaken, in that view we’re on Canal looking down Rampart Street. Obviously the Joy Theatre was on Canal, not one of the cross streets. It’s worth a chuckle that in 1963 you could stand on the corner of Canal and Rampart and look one way and see a big, flashy vertical sign reading JOY and look the other way and see a big, flashy vertical sign reading JOY’S.

But joy is what New Orleans is all about, right?