Joy Theater lights up tonight

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Irma Thomas outside the restored Joy Theater on Canal Street.
  • Irma Thomas outside the restored Joy Theater on Canal Street.

In this week's cover story, Gambit looks back (and forward) at the Joy Theater, the Canal Street cinema opened in 1947 and closed in 2003. It's reopening Dec. 29 as a multipurpose venue not only for film but also music, theater, special events and anything else.

At 6 p.m. tonight, a ceremony outside the theater will light the Joy's fully restored signature neon sign. Irma Thomas, who headlines the Dec. 29 opening night concert, will flip the switch.

NOLA Theatre District LLC's $5 million, fast-tracked renovation sticks close to the ultra-Moderne, streamlined look of the theater's original designs, first laid out by architect B.W. Edwards, whose simple future-forward concept outpaced the grand, classical architecture of neighboring Saenger and Orpheum theaters (which preceded the Joy by 20 years). The construction crews replaced the wall-to-wall draped curtain look on its inside with simple finishes, and added wraparound, curvy bars and other key pieces to complement the stripped-down '50s design. (Check out some photos from the theater's early days.) The doors open Dec. 29 with Irma Thomas and Lance Ellis, and more shows are scheduled through January.

But the sign (bearing the name of the theater's first owner, Joy Houck) made its soft debut earlier this month, when developers put finishing touches on the exterior. Tonight, the lights go on.

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