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NEWORLEANS - The Saenger Theater has been a Canal Street centerpiece from the vaudeville days to the computer age, hosting movies and Broadway plays until flood-waters from Hurricane Katrina caused heavy damage.

A $51 million restoration project is underway, with major plans to restore the historic theater to its original glory, but with the most modern equipment and amenities.

The iconic sign that highlighted the front of the theater on Canal Street has been removed. So has the back wall, exposing the area where the stage is.

That's because the stage is being dramatically expanded.

If you take Iberville Street from Basin Street, and cross Rampart Street to get into the French Quarter, you can't do that any more.

The stage is being extended 16 feet, which will block Iberville to traffic, and it will only be used by trucks bringing in stage equipment for various productions.

The plans are to restore the theater to the look it had when it opened in 1927 as a playhouse in the vaudeville days.

The 2,600 seat theater will be designed to accommodate many types of events, from Broadway stage plays to movies, and even corporate meetings.

Work is expected to be completed by the spring of 2013.

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