By Cherri Gregg
LANSDOWNE, Pa. (CBS) — The Lansdowne Theater will open its doors tomorrow to showcase its history as one of the last theaters from the 1920s in the region.
The money raised at the fundraiser will put the theatre one step closer to restoration.
With a classic marquee and an opulent interior, the 1,300+ seat theatre includes remnants of the Renaissance and Victorian eras, and was a magnet for moviegoers wanting to experience a slice of Hollywood, from 1927 until a small fire forced it to close sixty years later.
“We’re lucky enough to have the original curtain in the theatre, the original seats are here, the ceiling, which is elaborately painted,” says Matt Schultz, executive director of the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation. “There’s faces looking at you, there’s beautiful balconies with a tree of life depicted in fabric.”
A walk under the restored marquee and into the lobby transports theatregoers to another time, which is likely the reason why the Lansdowne still attracts interest. It’s been a backdrop to movies and television commercials, the most notable in recent memory being Silver Linings Playbook.
“The building is so photogenic and there’s so much to see in here,” says Schultz, who says the theatre had so many requests from photographers that it began to charge organizations for access. “It’s really the last of its kind, so people have been coming in here to photograph it since 2007.”
Community support has stopped the historic space from being converted to other uses.
“I think people recognize that this space is very special — it’s Hollywood fantasy,” says Schultz.
Public and private support means the theatre has been able to raise $7 million of the $9 million needed to fully restore the theatre for modern use as a concert hall.
“Our goal is to adaptively reuse it,” Schultz says, “to recreate the experience of people coming to a very special place — to give a sense that it is 1927, but your favorite alternative, classic rock singer-songwriter is on the stage.”
Tomorrow, the theatre will open its doors for the “Art of the Lansdowne” fundraiser, which will showcase photographs and films that prominently feature the facility. Tickets and details are available at http://www.lansdownetheater.org/.
Hear the extended interview with Matt Schultz in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 14:30)…