NEW ORLEANS -- Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the refurbished Saenger Theatre the best theater in the United States, a sign of the excellence New Orleans is capable of.
"And when we are at our best, we're the best that this country has to offer," Landrieu said.
Fifty-two million dollars restored the Saenger to the look it had when it opened in 1927, shedding new light for the audience on the theater's original glory.
"They remember how pretty it was, but they never saw it like it looks now," said David Anderson of ACE Theatrical Group, the Saenger's manager. "Every single piece of decorative plaster and paint has been re-executed."
Now there is wheelchair access, 60 percent more restrooms, more concessions, and a much larger stage for Broadway productions.
"We could never have played 'Book of Mormon' or 'The Lion King' at the old Saenger. We can play anything that's showing from now forward," said Anderson
"I think I remember when it opened," said Rene Brunet. "I was about six-years-old."
Ninety-two-year-old cinema historian and Prytania Theater owner Rene Brunet was stunned at the Saenger's restoration.
"It's wonderful," Brunet said. "It's beyond anything I ever expected. I never thought I'd see the Saenger Theatre like this again."
The mayor envisions a downtown theater district, with the Joy, the Loew's State returning, the Orpheum reopening, the Civic, which just reopened, and at the hub, the new Canal Street centerpiece, the Saenger.
"I think it signifies that upper Canal Street is back," said Cindy Connick of Canal St. Development Corp.
"Between the rebirth of the Saenger, the redevelopment of Iberville, the whole VA medical complex, I think you see it spurring development up and down Canal Street."
"I think Canal Street is coming back now, and the Saenger Theatre is going to be a great anchor again," said Brunet.