Fire in the Theater!

Sep 8, 2006 by

Offerings 5

The late great Coliseum Theatre.

First a bit of history.

The Coliseum opened in 1915, located on Coliseum Street at Erato Street. The theater seated 600 as of 1945 according to the Film Daily Yearbook from that year, though it originally seated over 1000. The Coliseum closed in 1976 and later was used for a movie production company.

A scene from the 1994 film version of Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire” where Louis watches the movie “Tequila Sunrise” was shot at the Coliseum.

Just prior to Katrina, David Torkanowsky, a local pianist and WWOZ DJ, bought the Coliseum . He intended to renovate it and turn it into a Recording studio for scoring movies. The movie business had really picked up and New Orleans was touted as Hollywood South. We had stunning and cheap locations for filming, some local talent and skilled A/V workers etc. New Orleanians realized that the we needed more local movie workers and facilities for editing, scoring and other post and pre production tasks. This was happening and Mr. Torkanowsky ‘s involvment shined a light for others to join in and take notice.
Friday, February 3rd, 2006, I was headed home from work when a large helicopter flew overhead. A stream of water leaked from a contraption suspended under its belly. I watched its path and sighted a billow of smoke up ahead. I picked up speed and hoped that it wasn’t the old theatre, with its beautiful curved facade. I watched in disbelief as more helicopters joined in and failed to save the building. What’s up with the helicopters? You’ve probably heard of this method of firefighting from reports of forest fires and the like, but in the city, not so often. The helicopters were gathering water from the Mississippi River and dousing the fire from high above. Something tells me that the roof was the first to go. The reason that we have seen this sight often in New Orleans is twofold. First, we have had so many fires since the levees broke because of flooded wiring and gas mains, faulty generators, piles of ex-houses that are now perfect tinder, insurance fires, you name it. The second reason is our fire department, bless them, is stretched to the max. Resources and personnel are drained. I have seen a fire at least every two weeks. I hear the fog horn sirens of the fire trucks far too often to count.

The photo above is one of a several photos that I took of the front steps of the Coliseum Theatre. The steps are all that remain.

Please, if you have any fond memories of this theatre please share. I wish that I had seen it in its happiest state rather than its saddest.

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