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‘Old buildings have stories’: Huntridge Theater to relight sign, marquee

Updated April 1, 2023 - 12:17 pm

As J Dapper stood inside the Huntridge Theater downtown where he once attended live rock and punk concerts as a teenager, the 45-year-old developer reflected on its history.

“Old buildings have stories,” he said of the Huntridge, located at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway.

Stickers of the bands that once performed in the long dormant venue more than 20 years ago were still stuck, some faded, on the floor of the theater.

“The fact that it’s still standing and it’s still here is a big deal,” Dapper said.

Next Friday, developers will join city officials and members of the community for the next chapter of the theater’s story as its marquee will be lit for the first time in approximately two decades.

Dapper purchased the theater two years ago and said the lighting ceremony is a chance to let the community know that the historic theater is being renovated and open to the public for tours.

“The general public, sometimes even when we make it clear that if they want to schedule a tour they can, it doesn’t happen because people just don’t know,” Dapper said.

Historic hat trick

The Huntridge has gone through different iterations after opening in the 1940s. It was the first desegregated movie theater in Las Vegas, according to Historic Preservation Officer Diane Siebrandt.

She said the theater is a rare venue in that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the State Register of Historic Places and the City of Las Vegas Historic Register.

“To have it on all three registers is quite important to us,” Siebrandt said.

After closing and reopening in the 1980s, the theater reopened as a live concert venue in the 1990s, hosting bands such as The Killers, Beastie Boys and Green Day. In 1995, the roof collapsed during a sound check prior to a Circle Jerks concert.

It closed for the last time in 2004 and has not reopened since.

As Dapper walked through a room off to the side of the stage where old projectors and lights sat on the floor, he picked up dusty letters that were once used to announce musical acts that were set to perform.

Mounted on a wall in another room was an old electrical box emblazoned with the words “High voltage. Instant death,” written on the outside in black marker.

Dapper said he hopes to create an art exhibit out of the artifacts that have been left behind.

‘A great room’

SoHo Playhouse, based out of New York City, will be the theater’s sole operator and responsible for its programming.

Darren Lee Cole, the producing artistic director at SoHo Playhouse, sees the renovation of the Huntridge Theater as a chance to fill a gap in the entertainment landscape in Las Vegas.

“There’s nothing like what we do, which is true off-Broadway theater in Vegas,” Cole said.

He said the programming will blend an homage to the theater’s history as well as providing the “whole menu of performing arts,” which will include bringing back live concerts in addition to comedy shows, cabaret, dance, circus and physical theater.

“We really think that part of the success of the Huntridge moving forward is that it can do many different things,” Dapper said.

Brett Robillard, a principal from the architecture firm Gensler, had worked with Dapper on local projects in the past and reached out when he heard about Dapper’s plan to renovate the Huntridge.

“My impression was that it’s a great room and it’s quite simple,” Robillard said.

In addition to renovating the main theater, developers are planning to add a 100-seat cabaret theater and a 200-seat black box theater.

“When you have something with such storied history ... you want to tap into what’s the soul of this place, and how — as an architect or a designer — do you honor that?” Robillard said.

Dapper said the goal is to begin renovations in about 12 months and that estimated construction will take about a year to complete. The building’s historic designations add extra steps in the approval process, he said.

The theater’s sign and marquee lighting event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, with the lighting scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Public tours of the theater can be reserved online.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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