Experience Past and Present at Georgetown’s Historic Strand Theater

By:Libby Wiersema


There it is – just minutes into the film “Made in Heaven,” actor Timothy Hutton and his gal exit a small theater, the effervescent marquis lights illuminating the featured film: “Notorious” starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. In keeping with the small-town 1952 setting, the pair then crosses the street and disappears into a diner.

For residents of the seaport city of Georgetown, the scene is especially fun to watch. After all, that’s their very own Strand Theater on the screen, as well as a snippet of historic Front Street.

Whether you’ve ever patronized a classic theater or just imagined it thanks to films or the dreamy recollections of your grandparents, it’s an experience that dredges up feelings of nostalgia. And nothing ups the charm factor of historic downtowns more than a well-preserved theater. Despite the rise of multiplexes and streaming video, these old-timey movie houses remain relevant in communities where the glories of the past are recognized as valuable commodities in the present.

That’s happily the case in Georgetown, South Carolina’s third-oldest city and home to the Strand, a 1940s theater where the marquis lights still bubble, beckoning theatergoers to the box office for a night of dramatic entertainment.

Like so many movie theaters, the Strand pulled the plug on those marquis lights and closed its doors in the 1970s. The venue found new life in 1982 when the nonprofit Swamp Fox Players bought the building to use as a home base for live productions. After more than a year of renovations, the Strand sparked back to life as a community theater, earning a place on the National Registry of Historic Places and membership in the League of Historic American Theatres. Over time, other modifications included adding a green room, rehearsal room, dressing rooms, an area for workshops and, in 2016, the floor was raised and new, comfy seating installed.

But perhaps the most thrilling change in recent years occurred when the theater added art house, foreign and documentary films to its repertoire, thereby restoring the Strand’s movie-house status. Films are shown each Friday and Saturday on the big screen, unless there is a live performance in the works.

Donations and theater memberships support operations at the Strand as do ticket sales. But hold your Junior Mints – while a lot of theaters depend on concessions for an added financial boost, the Strand is popcorn/candy/soda-free. Plan to have a snack or meal at one of Georgetown’s quaint cafes or waterfront eateries before you get your nostalgia fix at this landmark theater.

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