Civic Theatre reopening part of New Orleans historic theater renaissance

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 12, 2012 at 11:28 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 12 at 11:41 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Closed for decades, another historic New Orleans theater will soon open its doors in the new year.

Massive tax credits are what has helped bring the Civic Theatre back to life.

"It has been sitting idle for 30 years. The last it was open, it was the Civic Disco," said Civic Theatre General Manager Gail Varuso.

Wedged on O'Keefe Avenue just off Poydras Street sits the Civic. On Wednesday night with the flip of a switch, the theater's new marquee shined bright.

Inside construction crews are working feverishly to put the finishing touches on the building, which dates back to 1906. Three developers teamed up to reopen the Civic hoping to draw live theater, music performances and special events like weddings.

"We're a small, more intimate theater and we really feel a niche and void that hasn't been present in New Orleans for a long time," said Varuso.

A theater renaissance has kicked off in New Orleans thanks to state tax credits. Last December, after $5 millon in renovations, the Joy Theater on Canal Street re-opened.

Across the street, restoration work on the Saenger Theater continues.

"After 35 years of working down here to get everything together, it's starting to fall in place. We've got the critical mass of people and we're building the critical mass for theaters which is going to work," said local historian Jack Stewart.

A New Orleans native Stewart credits tax incentives and the changing Central Business District for the Civic's rebirth. Stewart believes that a theater district would be lagniappe to the Crescent City's current development boom.

"You have to have enough of them to make a theater district and when you get a theater district and enough going on, then its an attraction in itself, people come from all over," said Stewart.

Construction on the Civic kicked off in April and is expected to wrap up by the end of this year. The theater is also looking at attracting 2013 Super Bowl events.

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