When Lisa Reed looks at the interior of the former Strand Theater, she sees potential. She envisions a dinner theater and dance floor, reminiscent of those found in classic movies like “White Christmas.” She imagines a family-friendly atmosphere splashed with a bit of glitz and glamour.
For Reed, those visions are more than wishful thinking. She and her husband, David, purchased the property last November and have plans to renovate the space.
“It could be more than it has been,” David Reed says. He always thought the theater was a neat old building and when he heard it was on the market, he and wife felt called to purchase it. Now, they are working to wrap up a season of comedy shows and hope to begin improvements on the interior this summer.
The Old Theater: New Name for a New Era
The theater, which is located near the corner of Main and Hudson Streets, has had many names over the years. Built in 1928 as the Strand Theater, it was the place to see movies in Lowell until 1985. It then became a furniture store and has most recently been known as Larkin’s Other Place.
After the Reeds purchased the property, the question became what to name it next. There was some thought to going back to the Strand Theater but that didn’t seem to accurately reflect the couple’s plans for the building.
In conversations, a theme seemed to emerge. “Everyone kept saying ‘the old theater,’” Lisa Reed recalls. Since many people already referred to the building as ‘the old theater,” it seemed logical to make that it’s new name.
Meeting a Community Need
While the comedy shows are ongoing, the Reeds have been working behind the scenes to clear out storage spaces, update mechanicals and restore the marquee. While they don’t have a timeline for when interior renovations will begin, they expect the summer will be a busy time for making updates.
In the meantime, the couple has been researching the building’s history and settling on how they’d like it to look in the future.
“I see a classy dinner theater from the 1930s where you can dress up and go to a show,” Lisa Reed says. “We want to make it attractive as a historical building.”
What’s more, they want it to fill a need as a mid-tier rental space. Lisa Reed hopes the The Old Theater will be a place for folks who need a spot that is more than the park pavilion but not as grand as Lowell Showboat VI.
“We’d love to see all sorts of things in here,” David Reed says. For instance, a group of vendors set up inside the theater during the 2021 Christmas Through Lowell event. The couple also envisions it being a space for school group activities, family parties and more.
In the future, the Reeds would also like to restore an upstairs apartment at the theater to provide another downtown housing option.
Residents Invited to Help with Project
David and Lisa Reed have been members of the Lowell community since 2004. While their five children are all adults now, they were an active part of the local L.I.N.K. homeschool group. Over the years, the family has taken on a variety of projects and feel well-prepared to restore The Old Theater.
Originally, the idea was to start a non-profit to oversee and manage the theater. However, that couldn’t be put in place in time for the sale. “We’re still looking into the possibility of starting a non-profit,” David Reed says.
The couple is also looking into grants and other programs that could help fund some of the renovation. Plus, they have received calls from people interested in being part of the project in some way.
“It doesn’t have to be the David and Lisa Reed show,” Lisa Reed says. Instead, they are happy to accept – and even encourage – help from others. “There are a lot of people interested in seeing the building restored.”
Volunteers may be able to help with tasks such as painting, and the Reeds are considering some type of capital campaign to raise funds for the renovation. Donors would then be recognized in some way in the building, similar to how the names of donors to Lowell Showboat VI are listed on bricks along the Riverwalk.
Regardless of how the renovation takes place, Lisa Reed is clear on one thing: “We want to be proud of what goes on here.” And if all goes well, The Old Theater will become Lowell’s newest point of pride.
For more information on The Old Theater and marquee rentals, visit its website or follow it on Facebook. The next comedy show at the theater will be on February 12, 2022 and feature Gerry Grossman. Tickers can be purchased online.