Saenger to close for pending exterior renovations

The City of Biloxi announced today that the Saenger Theatre is closing for at least a year, signaling the pending exterior renovation of the 1920s-era downtown showplace.

Over the next several days, the city’s Parks & Recreation Department will be working with the 14 groups – mostly dance recitals – that had events planned in the theater over the next several weeks. Among the alternate venues are the Biloxi Civic Center, the Dr. Frank G. Gruich Sr. Community Center, or the theater at the Biloxi Upper Elementary School, formerly Biloxi Junior High School.

“We’ve had engineers working for months on getting the theater ready for a major overhaul,” said Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer Mike Leonard. “We realize that this will cause some inconvenience, but we have now reached the point where we must close the theater to begin preparing for this major work.”

Initial estimates on the cost of the exterior work range from $700,000 to more than a million dollars.

The theater, which hosts about 200 events attracting as many as 30,000 people a year, has its busiest time of year in March through June and again in November and December. Fifteen events accounting for 53 event days had been scheduled through June, and four events accounting for 18 event days had been scheduled for November and December. No events are scheduled for June through November or in all of 2019.

“We realize that this is a popular venue for dance groups and holiday events and we apologize for the inconvenience,” Leonard said, “but we must bite the bullet and begin the preparations for this work.”

The theater, located in the downtown district, is a 900-seat venue that is host to numerous performing arts, groups and city events. The Saenger was constructed in 1929 and opened in 1930 with the showing of Paramount’s first all-talking movie, “Interference.” The theater became a city building in 1975 and has since undergone several renovations.

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Glich had his 2017 inauguration in the theater to draw attention to its failing state, which included plaster falling from interior walls because of water seepage through the roof and exterior walls.

The mayor has made the restoration of the Saenger and restoring two-way traffic to Howard Avenue linchpins in efforts to revitalize downtown Biloxi.
Gallery: Fresh photos of the Saenger exterior
Gallery Inauguration of city leaders at Saenger, June 2017
Gallery: “The Last Ride” movie in the Saenger in 2012