Southern Indiana Living

MAR-APR 2014

Southern Indiana Living magazine is the exclusive publication of the region, offering readers a wide range of coverage on the people, places and events that make our area unlike any other. In SIL readers will find beautiful photography, encouraging s

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silivingmag.com • 39 O nce New Albany's premier movie theater, The Grand made it through the Depres- sion, the 1937 food, years of neglect, and the decay and rebirth of its downtown neighborhood, to become now one of the most sought after event spaces in Southern Indiana. The Grand plays hosts to all types of events, running from weddings and receptions, to corporate dinners, and awards banquets. In 2013 The Grand was voted the num- ber one wedding venue by Louisville A- List, an on-line listing of the best places in and around Louisville as determined by over 16,000 votes from local experts. A brightly-lit marquee which once touted movie stars such as Carey Grant, Bette Davis, or Marlon Brando, now an- nounces events of local organizations or introduces newlywed couples as they host their wedding reception. Guests at events receive the red carpet treatment, literally, entering the lobby on red carpet, passing the origi- nal ticket window and candy counter en route to one of the largest indoor event spaces in southern Indiana. The movie screen is gone, but the stage remains. Where once theater seats flled the over 15,000 square-foot space, a grand ballroom com- plete with crystal chandeliers and rich draperies welcomes guests. The former balcony is now a mezzanine, often serving as a VIP lounge or hosting a cocktail hour for guests. A bridal suite for wedding party members is also located upstairs. In the Beginning Opening in 1909, The Grand promised an hour and a half of entertainment for 10 cents twice a night. Each performance featured two Vaudeville acts, three reels of 'moving pictures', two songs, and 'one of the best orchestras in commission'. The Grand was remodeled in 1929, adding the cutting edge sound-on-flm technology of 'Fox Movietone', and bringing talking pictures to New Albany. Over the years New Albany boasted 16 theaters and two opera houses, but by 1931 only The Grand, the Elks, and the Indiana theaters remained. By 1950, The Grand stood alone. The great Ohio River food of February 1937 inundated downtown New Albany, flling The Grand with water to the top of the ticket counter. Renovations were undertaken and the theater reopened in December. Another remodel in 1951 gave The Grand its present façade. Like most public entertainment ven- ues, The Grand was segregated in its early life. A few years ago New Albany's Division Street School, built in 1884 as a segregated school and today serving as a museum, acquired a section of bleacher- style seating from the balcony section re- served for blacks. In contrast, a padded seat from the white section sits next to it. The last movie shown at The Grand was in 1975. "It was "Swiss Family Robinson", and yours truly was the projectionist," said Floyd County historian David Barksdale. He worked at The Grand while a student at Indiana University Southeast. "By that time the TransLux Theater had opened in Clarksville and down- town New Albany was on the downhill slide," he said. "By 1975 it was running second and third run flms. It wasn't showing the new movies any more." After closing in 1975, the theatre sat vacant until the mid-1990s when a couple of ventures failed to take of at the site. The Grand: Story // Jenna Esarey with Loren Haverstock Opening in 1909, The Grand promised an hour and a half of entertainment for 10 cents twice a night. Each performance featured two Vaudeville acts, three reels of 'moving pictures', two songs, and 'one of the best orchestras in commission'. Historic movie theater continues to roll out the red carpet MarchApril 2014.indd 39 2/23/14 8:48 PM

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