The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre is one of Marietta’s greatest assets, presenting live drama, classic movies, concerts, comedy and other special events. It’s one of the best-known landmarks in Cobb County and offers a wide variety of entertainment, a focal point for the arts so essential to the cultural well-being of our community.
Now as the theater prepares to reopen to the public again, it is urgently in need of donations so it won’t have to close its doors for good. Because of the pandemic, the Strand has been closed since mid-March and thus prevented from generating the revenue it needs. Compared to many other theaters, the Strand relies heavily on ticket sales and other event revenue, said Andy Gaines, the general manager.
“The Strand is more than a couple of rooms and a building. This is a community gathering spot for all walks of life to come together,” Gaines told the Marietta Daily Journal. “People come together to see a show, be with friends, celebrate birthdays, celebrate weddings, for people to have an emotional connection to each other.” The theater is reopening in phases: first the fourth-level terrace, then the second floor and later the auditorium. The whole theater is expected to be open by July 17-18, when Departure, a Journey tribute band, is scheduled to perform a two-day concert.
A fund drive is underway to ensure the future of this vital forum for the arts, so indispensable for our community. Toward that goal, Superior Plumbing of Marietta has offered to match donations to the theater for up to $6,000 through July. Jay Cunningham, owner of Superior Plumbing, is challenging people to support the arts by donating to the Strand. “We’re encouraging people and business owners to step up for the arts, because the arts are important,” Cunningham said. Superior Plumbing will be matching donations in July and has issued a challenge for another business to match in August, which can then invite another to do the same in the coming months, calling the initiative “challenging it forward.”
The Strand, anchor for the arts on historic Marietta Square, began its storied history in 1935 as an Art Deco movie theater featuring such “modern technologies” as heating, air conditioning and an acoustical sound system, seating for 1,000 and a fireproof projection room. Built at a cost of $150,000, it was the most modern theater outside of Atlanta. The Strand opened with the premiere of “Top Hat,” a musical starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
The theater continued to provide entertainment for Marietta and Cobb County until 1976 when it closed its doors. For more than three decades, there was a void in the arts in our community. Then a nonprofit group, Friends of the Strand, was organized by Cobb movers and shakers led by Earl Smith. The Strand was completely reconstructed and opened as the central venue for the performing arts and other cultural programs in 2008.
General Manager Gaines said the theater hosted more than 1,000 events last year, and though the Strand has continued to produce shows virtually, the expected shortfalls in revenues are significant.
“We actually received a diary from someone,” Gaines said. “She just passed but she was in her 90s, and she wrote in her diary every day, and she came to the Strand from when she was tiny. ... That’s what this place can mean to people, and so we want to make sure that we are that for her and for a whole new generation.”
In this time of urgent need by the Strand, businesses and individuals are invited to donate directly, hold a fundraiser or buy tickets, merchandise or gift cards. For more information, visit www.strandmarietta.org.
It’s up to you and all other Cobb citizens who know the importance of this historic home for the arts.