Former movie theater reopens as music venue
The Queen will be sister venue to Philadelphia's World Café Live
Published: Monday, April 4, 2011
Updated: Saturday, April 9, 2011 12:04
WILMINGTON — After 50 years of vacancy, the Queen Theater opened its doors Friday, marking the end of an 18-month, $25 million renovation project to restore the theater to its former glory.
The site was first occupied in the late 1800s by an apartment complex, but the original building was destroyed by a fire in 1910. Seven years later, the original Queen Theater opened in its place.
It was converted into a movie theater in 1930. At the time, it was one of the country's first silver-screen movie theaters. It closed in 1959 due to low attendance.
Organizers and prominent Delaware politicians gathered at the theater on North Market Street for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The Queen debuted as the sister location of Philadelphia's legendary music venue, World Café Live.
City and state officials are hailing the opening of the Queen as a key component in the efforts to revitalize Wilmington's downtown. The theater's two stages will host hundreds of performances each year.
Chipped paint and vestiges of pipes from a turn of the century organ—purposely left as homage to the Queen's past—framed both sides of the renovated theater's main stage. The rest of the space, which holds 400 seated and 800 standing audience members, features a bar and two-level balcony.
Bill Taylor, executive director of the Light Up the Queen Foundation, served as the keynote speaker of Friday's ceremony, during which he introduced local politicians, contractors and individuals influential in renewing the function of the 19th century building.
Along with speakers, the ceremony also included performances from Ben Leroy, who sang "New Wilmington-City Alive," and legendary bluegrass performer and local music shop owner David Bromberg .
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) played off the festivities of the day, giving an "April fools" to those who doubted the building could be renovated. With the pounding of a fist, he prompted the crowd into a collective of chant of the Rolling Stones song, "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)."
"I know, it's only rock and roll, but I like it, I like it, yes I do, keep it going!" Carper said.
Roger LaMay, general manager of WXPN-FM , expressed his excitement in announcing the Queen.
"We are broadcasting live from World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington Delaware," Lemay said.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, guests gathered around the main stage of the Queen's Copeland Theater for the venue's first performance by blues guitarist Sonny Landreth.
With respect to the Queen's history and bright future ahead, Taylor sang out the British monarchial chant, giving life to the addition of a Wilmington music and restaurant venue.
"All hail her majesty, the Queen," Taylor said.
The Review will have more on this story in the April 12 edition of the paper.