Spring 2003

The Historic Strand Theater

The Strand is the Last of Many Theaters in the City of Plattsburgh Left Standing.

By: Kaidian Smith

The grand opening of the Strand, Dec. 29, 1924, caused an occasion of astonishment. The erection of a playhouse like the Strand was an unusual moment for the people in Plattsburgh, along the borders of Lake Champlain. The Strand's opening marked a new era in amusement offered in Plattsburgh, since only a few such theaters had ever blessed any Northern New York city. The Strand Theater inherited the mantle as the city's major venue after the Plattsburgh Theater burned. This 1,326-seat auditorium featured both vaudeville and motion pictures. The films shown on the first bill were: "Hot Water," with Harold Lloyd, and an Our Gang comedy, "Every Man for Himself." The Italianate decoration has adorned the Strand ever since its grand opening..

The Strand Theater advertised itself as "The Pride of Northern New York." During its first anniversary, management made great effort in avoiding discrimination in the selection of pictures. In vaudeville, the Keith-Albee Circuit sent each week a selection of exceptional performers to provide acts in their line, which gave an air of life to the cozy home like theater. People at the Strand Theater have come to expect the Vaudeville groups. The Strand Orchestra provided music.

The Strand Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 on Brinkerhoff Street had 97,000 admissions in 1981 with 102,000 in 1982 and 111,000 in 1983. For the first four months of 1984, Strand attendance was up 5 percent. Cinema Center Corp. owned the Strand, which was managed by Bruce Coltharp. It announced the expansion of the Theatre from two screens to four screens.

For over twenty years, the Strand supporters have been trying to save the Strand. In June 1987, their efforts to turn the vacant theatre building into a performance arts center was shadowed by the need of funds to start. Also renovation couldn't start until their tax-exempt status was approved and feasibility study conducted. Some of the work needed include tearing out the brick wall that was built at the edge of the stage and removing the ceiling that turned the original one-room theatre into two. A Spokesman from the Munipal Lighting Department reported that major electrical work was necessary before the center could be opened.

The group, Save Our Strand was negotiating a lower price than the $120,000, the owner Dick Webber was asking for to purchase the theatre. Comparisons and estimates were made for the renovations of the theatre. The planning relied heavily on donations and volunteers to do the work. SOS was also working with the City Development Office to find organizations to fund their cause. The strand has passed through the hands of many owners and renovation plans, yet it has survived with along the years.

The Strand, one of America's great movie palaces, 78 years later continues to serve the North Country with a wide range of movie entertainment. They show both foreign and domestic film products, art and commercial, with second-run offerings. The variety includes action, adventure, drama, fantasy, comedy, musicals, horror, western, documentaries, mysteries as well as science fiction. No matter the story type, it's available at the Strand. Movies are shown at reasonable prices, regardless of the size of the audience. It features some first-run movies that Hoyts Theatre doesn't carry; lots of second-run movies; premieres of regional films; cult classics along with occasional live performances often with the local talents.

Since then, several generations of the North Country residents have passed through the doors of the Strand to experience great movies. H. Luis Carrasco Sr. owner of the local landmark remains true to styling the theatre in vintage fashion. The Strand wears the title of historical theatre because of the age of the building, and the fact that it is the last serving theatre the City of Plattsburgh. At the turn of the century there were other theatres in the city, a common form of entertainment at the end of 1800 and 1900s, since there were no malls or television.

The strand theatre located in downtown Plattsburgh has been a staple of the community since 1924, however, in the past ten years, the owner has been languid in paying taxes. So the city is debating foreclosure on the Strand because it owes about 40,000 in taxes dating back to 1992. The city had to make up for the sum accumulated because of negligence and in turn their charity benefited the theatre. The city until recently had not been forceful in pursuing delinquent taxpayers. Now that times have changed, the Strand has to pay up or yield the property. The owner has offered to pay half now and indicated a payment plan for the balance in examination of the ultimatum. Since last November, Carrasco has been promoting a benefit tax-relief drive seeking public donations in an attempt to pay the back taxes. The Strand has also been running newspaper advertisements and urging people to buy gift certificates to keep the theatre's door open.

Still Mayor Daniel Stewarts has enlisted a prospect from New York City that might be interested in obtaining the theatre, renovating it and turning it into a performing art venue, a la Flynn Theatre in Burlington. Turnstile Entertainment is an entertainment group that specializes in live entertainment, and it has done projects with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, MGM Studios and the World Wrestling Entertainment. Renovations to the Strand Vintage décor require considerable cash, and it could take years to complete.













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