The NorShor Theatre in Downtown Duluth is officially open for business. That's 19 months after the 30 million dollar restoration began, and nearly eight years after talks to restore the historic theater got underway.
"The opportunity for a community to reclaim a theatre like this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.
Nearly 80 years after the original NorShor Theatre opened in 1940, and after many failed attempts to keep it going, the curtain has been pulled back on a new era.
It has taken years of planning, months of restoration, and more than 30 million dollars to get the NorShor Theatre back in business - but now the stage is ready to play host to some of the areas best thespians.
"To be part of the history of Duluth is very meaningful. For myself, and I think many, I'm so proud of our community that we have restored our last remaining historic theatre," said Christine Gradl Seitz Executive & Artistic Director for the Duluth Playhouse.
The new look is a sleek and modern one in several ways. However, the marquee, the stage, the balcony and many others are actual pieces of the theatre's history, now restored.
"Keeping that nature here was really important, and I think we've done that," said Herb Minke, Duluth Playhouse Board Chair.
While the performances will garner most of the attention, the memories for the visitors might take center stage.
"I hope they get a flashback to their first memories of the NorShor, or a flashback to the time in the 40's when this was originally built," said Minke
While crews put the finishing touches around the theatre, the stage awaits the first performance.
"It's time to be excited, and I can't wait until opening night, and to be able to enjoy the finality of this project," said Gradl Seitz.
The theatre features two lounges, is partnered with a few local restaurants to provide food, and seats more than 600 people.
City leaders say the long awaited theatre will provide a big boost to the downtown economy, attracting thousands of people to local eateries, and shops on production nights.
The Duluth Playhouse will be the primary tenant of the NorShor. Until now, their shows have been performed at The Depot. The Children's Theatre, and Young Adult productions will still be performed at The Depot.
Wednesday is the sponsor preview night. The grand opening for the public is Thursday night with the debut show being Mama Mia!
George Sherman, president of Sherman Associates, said the financing structure needed for the project was one of their most complex developments they have ever had.
The theater originally opened as the Orpheum Theater vaudeville house in 1910, and was later reconfigured as a movie house and became the NorShor Theatre in 1941.
Redevelopment was done by city officials, DEDA, the Duluth Playhouse and a Minneapolis-based developer Sherman Associates.
We'll have more on Wednesday morning's ribbon cutting tonight on the KBJR 6 News.