NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Eight years ago, Hurricane Katrina and massive flooding spurred by broken levees heavily damaged the historic Saenger Theatre.
On Friday, the theatre reopened for business following a $52 million renovation that restored the 86-year-old ornate movie theatre into what now hosts stage productions and live music concerts.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, elected officials and investors who partnered to bring the restoration to fruition stood on the newly renovated stage to celebrate the theatre's formal reopening. A sold-out performance by comedian Jerry Seinfeld later Friday will mark the theatre's return. Two more shows by Seinfeld are scheduled Saturday.
Landrieu and others used words like "wow," ''breathtaking," ''amazing" and "beautiful" to describe the Saenger's transformation. Designers returned the theatre to its 1927 grandeur with a historically replicated carpet, original and replicated chandeliers, and a historically accurate paint scheme.
Improvements also include technical upgrades, including new fiber optic stars in the auditorium, expanded restrooms and concession facilities. The theatre used to seat about 4,000 but now seats about 2,600, giving patrons more room and comfort, officials said.
Landrieu said the theater, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the city's best symbol of resurrection and resilience.
"This is just a spectacular moment for all of us," Landrieu said. "We don't want to be like Atlanta, New York and D.C. We want to take the old and the new and create that authentic New Orleans that can't be replicated anywhere else in the world. And we've done that. I encourage you to use it and enjoy it."
David Rubenstein, chairman of the Canal Street Development Corporation, said the theatre is another step in the revitalization of the Canal Street corridor.
"This is just another reason to come and spend the weekend in New Orleans," he said.
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