Everyone’s hometown has some kind of landmark that’s important to its past. Whether it’s a park, a building, a sign, or a statue, these things hold sentiment to the people who live there. Something sentimental to the people of Atmore, Alabama was taken away six years ago—but it’s about to come back.
Back in 2013, the famous Strand Theater of Atmore, Alabama closed its doors after 84 years in business. Before its closure, it had been the longest continually operating theater in the entire state of Alabama. Many people in the town remember seeing movies at the theater when they were children—it was a central part of life growing up in Atmore.
The last movie to show at the theater was “Free Birds.” On a Sunday in November of 2013, the word “closed” showed up in place of the usual new release titles up on the theater’s marquee. All the posters had been taken down, and the theater was closed for good.
The owner of Strand Theater at the time, Wayne Kelley, said it was a difficult decision to close it down. The Kelley family had been running it for the previous 35 years, but he simply couldn’t afford to keep it open any longer. Wayne had owned the business for almost 11 years, but at this point had no choice, claiming that another six months of slow business would have forced him to file bankruptcy.
He considered several ways to save the theater, but none of them were feasible or cost effective, and he simply couldn’t compete with newer, updated theaters popping up nearby.
He had worked with the theater since he was just 14 years old. His uncle had owned it for 13 years before he took over, and before that, it belonged to a cousin of his. A member of the Kelley family had owned the Strand Theater for almost half of the theatre’s life.
The Future of the Theater
A group called Pride of Atmore is doing something about it. They’re dedicated to preserving and protecting the historical legacy of Atmore. As a part of their mission, the Strand Theater will serve as their primary focal point and a multi-faceted Arts and Cultural Center that will enhance the quality of life in Atmore and the surrounding communities.
To learn more about the Strand Theater and the revitalization of downtown Atmore, follow Pride of Atmore on Facebook or visit City of Atmore’s website!