A vision by James Russell of a revitalized Takoma Theatre.

Efforts to Save the Takoma Theatre

In the decades following 1950, the once enormous appeal of local neighborhood theaters and downtown movie palaces were drained  by new suburban malls, multiplex theaters, and television. Many theaters in the District including the Takoma Strand, Howard, Colony, Congress and MacArthur went dark. Many were converted to other retail uses. Community efforts to save the Takoma Theatre began in the 1970s with a family movie house on weekends,

Alternative programming — rentals to lease the theater to independent artists and small performing arts companies—were tried by many organizations. These included  dance companies, home-schooling associations, independent film premiers, rehearsal space, church services, playwrights, etc

The major efforts included the Takoma Park Folk Festival, Takoma Theatre Arts Project that leased the theater for 3 years, and the Takoma Park Conservancy, an incorporated non-profit organization founded to buy, renovate, and manage programing. All of these were led by community Takoma residents, some involved in all of them.

Takoma Park Folk Festival, 1978

Community efforts to save the theatre from closure led to the first Takoma Park Folk Festival in 1978. Today this highly popular event is still run by an all-volunteer community committee and showcases local performers — the legacy of its founder, activist Sammie Abbot (Mayor Takoma Park, 1980-1985).

“I remember Sammie calling several of us over to his house for a meeting. . . . He said, ‘We’ve got to save the Takoma Theatre, and here’s’ how we’re going to do it.’ ”

Quoted in a 2010 overview of the theater’s history may be found in article by Diana Kohn, “The Saga of Takoma Theatre in Three Acts” (Takoma Voice, February 2010).

Taking bows at the end of a TTAP fundraising performance and silent auction. The theme was vaudeville in 1923 when the theater opened. Vaudeville acts frequently preceded the movie because there was the belief that no on would attend" just a movie."
Taking bows at the end of a TTAP fundraising performance and silent auction—one of the many efforts to save the Takoma Theatre. The theme was vaudeville in 1923 when the theater opened. Vaudeville acts often preceded the movie because there was the belief that no on would attend” just a movie.”

The Takoma Theatre Arts Project, 2003

Efforts from the mid-1980’s to 2004 achieved some success once again lighting-up the theatre and the adjacent business district. The , the Takoma Theatre Arts Project (TTAP), a non-profit community group, ably demonstrated the promise of the theatre as a performing arts venue. Demand was strong for a theater in a residential neighborhood, with ~500 seats, minimal but adequate technology, and affordable rents. It occupied a niche between the very small theaters with 100-250 seats and the large theaters with 1,000-2,000 theaters. The large theaters were expensive to rent because they were developed to state of the art and many facilities smaller companies did not need. It was also an affordable rehearsal space.

Recent Efforts to Save the Takoma Theatre

Recent Efforts to save the theater …. The Takoma Theatre Conservancy

Theater Programs, Takoma, Washington DC