Marietta's Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre is a landmark steeped in history.
Located on historic Marietta Square, the iconic building opened its doors on Sept. 24, 1935. Built in the elegant Art Deco style of the time, the opulent red and gold auditorium transports visitors back to the Golden Age of cinema.
The first movie to be shown at the Strand was “Top Hat” starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. In 1936, on its one year anniversary, the Strand featured “Swing Time”, another musical starring Astaire and Rogers. The theatre was sold in 1947 to the Martin Theatre Chain. Then, in 1964, the building underwent its first full renovation. The theater was sold to Herbert Goldstein in 1976, but closed its doors to moviegoers soon after.
From the early 1980s until 2002, the building served many different purposes, most notably as a live music venue in the late 1990s. According to Mike Bellows, who managed the Strand during part of its time as a live music venue, the theater saw a myriad of musical acts −ranging from local bands playing their first shows to bigger acts such as Sixpence None the Richer and Third Day.
"The experience of hosting live shows and making incredible recordings with so many amazing up-and-coming bands, in a true venue, felt like something in the days of the Beatles and made me gain a whole new respect for the productions and performances!" Bellows said, adding "The building was full of secret rooms back then. Now it's been opened up more. Upstairs there was an original reel of “Earthquake” still in the projector."
The Strand closed its doors again in 2002 and the building fell into disrepair. It sat vacant and unused, but not unappreciated. Community leaders were determined to restore the building to its former glory and after years of fundraising, the space - now called the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre - hosted its grand opening in 2009. It has once again become the go-to venue for plays, events and, of course, movies.
Now, it’s back in business, so here are the best ways to enjoy the Strand:
- Get ready for laughs: On Wednesday nights from 7 to 11 p.m., the Strand is home to the “Show Up, Go Up” open mic comedy night. Up-and-coming comedians are welcomed with no screening or audition required. Due to the "off-color" humor, you must be 21+ to attend.
- Sit back and relax: For a more relaxed vibe, step into the Lumiere Lounge 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday for comfortable surroundings, silent movies and a live pianist. There are occasional Open Mic nights for local musicians. Check the official calendar for dates.
- The Artist within: If you are more into the visual arts, check out Art After Dark on the third Thursday of every month from 7 to 11 p.m. You can showcase your work or pack up your paints, pencils and chalks and bring your works-in-progress. Waiting for inspiration? Bring a blank canvas, as all artists are encouraged to "Get off your couch and MAKE SOMETHING!"
- A Film Buff's Dream: Looking for something more laid back? The Strand screens a variety of classic films, ranging from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Cool Hand Luke” to silent movies such as “The Merry Widow” (feature a live organist). Check the calendar for dates, times and features. Plays and musicals are also featured.
- Listen Live: If live music is more your speed, there are plenty of musical acts on the bill as well. The GSO Jazz and Chorus present jazz hits from yesteryear, while the Sam Cook Experience celebrates the catalogue of the late, great soul legend. The Strand Ole Opry's “Love and Heartbreak” features classic country music. See the calendar for event descriptions and dates.
Hosting your event
The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre offers several options for event booking. The auditorium itself, which now seats up to 533, can be booked for screenings, live music and corporate events. There are also three event spaces available, including the Cobb Terrace. Bookings for weddings are also available.
Directions and parking
The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre is located on Marietta Square, which has free street parking. The Cobb County Parking Garage (which is free Monday through Friday after 5 p.m. and on weekends) is nearby.
From I-75 north, take exit 261S Cobb/Delk Rd., turn left. Follow to Atlanta Rd. and turn right. Continue until you reach Marietta Square.
From I-75 south, take exit 267B towards Marietta. Merge onto Ga-5 south. Continue on to Church Street until you get to Marietta Square.