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D.C. has gotten pretty good at bringing old theaters back to life. The Lincoln’s restoration in the 1990s gave “the Jewel on U” new sheen, and the recently renovated Howard’s crowds overflow onto the street most weekends.
With the budget proposal he released this morning, outgoing Mayor Vince Gray has opened the door for another theater renewal project: a $1 million revitalization of the Strand Theater, a historic, now-derelict movie house in Deanwood. The money would be used to “stabilize the building before it implodes” to prepare it for a full renovation, says Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesperson for Gray. Unlike the Lincoln and the Howard, though, the Strand has been tagged by the mayor’s office as an economic development opportunity, not an arts space. There are no concrete plans for the theater’s future beyond repairing the façade to bring up surrounding real estate values in hopes of eventually selling the space for commercial use, Ribeiro says.
The Strand was the first movie theater built east of the Anacostia River when it opened in 1928. Since its closure in 1959, it’s fallen into disrepair (Ribeiro says there’s a tree growing through the roof), earning a spot in the National Register of Historic Places and the D.C. Preservation League’s list of most endangered places. It’s worth noting that there are now no movie theaters in wards 7 or 8, and even if the $1 million Strand project is approved by the D.C. Council, that fact probably won’t change anytime soon.
Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia, user Smallbones, Creative Commons license