The New Orleans Saenger Theatre

The following photographs were taken well prior to the massive destruction of the New Orleans Saenger by Hurricane Katrina. At this time, the fate of the theatre is uncertain. Carlton Smith, noted theatre organ technician, has inspected the 26 rank Robert Morton organ and it is his opinion that a new console and massive restoration work is needed. At this time, there are several plans on the table for the recovery of four major New Orleans movie houses, however, no formal announcement of a fully funded commitment by the government, or by private interests, has been made public to date.
The Saenger's 1927, 26 Rank Morton console as it appeared around the year 2000. Since this photo was taken, the organ deteriorated somewhat between 2000 and 2005, at which time parts of it went under water in the Katrina flood. CLICK HERE TO VIEW A DOCUMENT DESCRIBING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE NEW ORLEANS SAENGER.

The atmospheric theatre auditorium of the Saenger as it appeared around 1998.
The New Orleans Saenger Theater opened in 1927 with all of the splendor of the Roxy or New York Paramount. Rosa Rio and John Hammond were the house organists at the time, and they were later joined by Ray McNamara, a New Orleans legend, who played well into the 1960's at several New Orleans restaurants and on radio and TV. The theatre fell into disrepair by the late 1950's and in the mid-1960's it was divided into two theatres. At that time, much of the statuary and art were discarded. In the 1970's, local business man E.B. Basile purchased the theatre and turned it back into a single theatre with much of it's original splendor restored. Local organ and theatre historian Dr. Barry Henry restored the organ as part of the overall theatre restoration process. As the years passed, and Basile sold his interest in the theatre, the organ again fell into disrepair. It was being looked after, and was partially playable at the time Katrina struck. At this time, the fate of the organ and the theatre is uncertain.
At left, the Saenger as it appeared in 1930. Note original sign and marquee. Middle, the Saenger as it appeared just prior to Hurricane Katrina. At right, the saxophone rank of the Mighty Morton Wonder Organ.

The following photos were taken by John DeMajo on a tour of the theatre in 1998.
Below, John DeMajo at the console