Rebuilding The Strand one thread at a time

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Sep 04, 2013
The Strand Theater not long before it closed in 1982.

It’s been more than 30 years since The Strand Theater on Main Street has been able to show a film on the silver screen.

After more than three decades of providing what was once an essential form of entertainment for a community, the theater closed after a fire destroyed the balcony in 1982.

But now Rodney and Lorraine Conard of Waynesville are working to bring back pieces of what made The Strand great. Even though there is still plenty of work to be done, the first movie, “The Goonies,” will be shown at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 and 7. The venue will begin hosting live music in October.

The Conards purchased the building at 38 North Main Street two years ago to expand their family business BrokenMedia, which repairs and ships handheld bar code scanners.

While they could have purchased space in an industrial park, they chose to be in the heart of downtown Waynesville. They could have just made minimal improvements to the old theater building to use it as a warehouse, but they really wanted to add more value to Downtown Waynesville.

“We wanted to be supportive of our local economy — the downtown economy is very important to us,” Lorraine said.

Renovations to the tattered building have been extensive as well as expensive, Rodney said. The new main entrance to the theater will be through the alley on Wall Street instead of the Main Street entrance. People can walk in, purchase their tickets at the box office and walk directly into the box theater. The once 400-seat theater with a balcony can now seat 80 to create a more intimate setting for live music as well.

Rodney said the new lighting for the stage just came in Monday and movies will be shown on a brand new digital projector. But the Conards aren’t making an effort to hide the family business that is surrounding the theater space. Behind the theater are exposed aisles of inventory for the business, which currently employs about seven people.

Lorraine said they were going for more of a “speakeasy” feel to the building.

“We want to emphasis we are a theater tucked into a warehouse,” she said. “We’re not trying to disguise that — we want to play it up.”

She said the theater was still a side business and continued improvements would be made as money becomes available. Not knowing much about the movie business before buying the theater, they were surprised to learn of the costs associated with licensing to be able to show movies.

That is why the Strand will mostly be showing classic movies. Selling out the theater at $6 a ticket would barely cover the cost of the movie. Rodney said they would start a Kickstarter campaign online soon to raise money for a proper stage curtain, which can cost up to $40,000.

The Conards also have plans to have local music, open-mic events and even a jazz series, which will be put on by Eve Halsam. As a musician herself, Lorraine understands the importance of having a music venue to perform in other than bars in town.

They have plans to build a concession area up front on the Main Street level with tables and comfortable couch seating so people can just “hang out.” Megan Brown and Chris Allen, creators of Waynesville Soda Jerks, will be managing concessions, making food and selling their homemade sodas.

Local artist Dominick DePaolo has offered to display an exhibit of his works in he concession area throughout the month of September to add to the décor.

Lorraine and Rodney want the community to have more entertainment options on nights and weekends.

“We’re excited about it but we can’t do it by ourselves,” Lorraine said. “Hopefully it will increase foot traffic in town and then maybe it will be more feasible for other businesses to stay open later.”

But she knows the success of the theater will be up to the community. They are relying on the patrons to offer feedback on what they would like to see happen at The Strand. The Strand has an active Facebook page with daily updates or you can email them at info@38main.com.

In October, the Strand will resume its schedule of films every Friday and Saturday night. Live music scheduled so far in October are Jon Shain from Durham on Oct. 12, Ron Ashley Jones on Oct. 17 and Red June on Oct. 24.

Movies scheduled for September are as follows: “Goonies” Sept. 6 and 7; “American Graffiti” Sept. 13 and 14; “Casablanca” Sept. 20 and 21. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for ages 12 and under. Advance tickets may be purchased in-person at the box office at 38 N. Main St. from 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays beginning in September.

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