Prytania Theater owner Rene Brunet, at age 91, has teamed up with urbanologist Jack Stewart and New Orleans book publisher Arthur Hardy to produce a 160-page coffee table book that chronicles more than 100 lost movie theaters in metro New Orleans.
New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods. And once upon a time, each of those neighborhoods included one or more movie theaters. Since 1896 when the nation’s first movie house, VitaScope Hall, opened on Canal Street, nearly 200 neighborhood theaters have come and gone. These entertainment venues were more than places where motion pictures were projected onto giant screens. They were community centers where people gathered and where memories were made. There’s One In Your Neighborhood—The Lost Movie Theaters of New Orleans presents the history of more than100 neighborhood theaters that will be familiar to Baby Boomer and younger generations
Rene J. Brunet Jr. in a living legend. For more than a century the Brunet family has dedicated their lives to the movie theater industry. Born in New Orleans on August 25, 1921, Rene grew up in the theater business. His father was at the forefront of the motion picture industry in New Orleans and opened his first theater in 1905 on Canal Street. When his father died in 1946, Rene Jr. at age 25, became the owner and operating manager of the Imperial Theater, which his father had built in 1921.
Rene Brunet Jr. will be most remembered for his Canal Street movie palace endeavors, having rescued the closed Joy Theater and Loew’s State Theater. In 1996 at the age of 75, Rene saved the last singlescreen neighborhood movie theater in New Orleans, the Prytania Theater, which was about to face the wrecking ball. He still owns and manages the Prytania and appears there every night, taking tickets at the door.
This book fulfills a life-long dream of Rene’s—to record the rich history of the beloved neighborhood movie theaters of New Orleans.
Jack Stewart is a native of New Orleans who has been intrigued with theaters all his life. He holds an M.S. in Urban Studies, a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of New Orleans and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Orpheum Theater. He is a board member of City Lights, Incorporated, a group that started Saturday afternoon organ concerts at the Saenger Theater when it appeared that the Saenger would be leveled and replaced by an office building. Later, he was a driving force in the same group’s effort to save the Orpheum Theater, which ended in the donation of the building to the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
Jack Stewart is the author of Funerals with Music in New Orleans and various articles on the history of New Orleans music. He is a member of the New Orleans Jazz Commission and the chairperson of the New Orleans International Music Colloquium. Jack researched and wrote the text for a series of Historic Jazz Walking Tours and also for 60 musicians’ residences plaques for the Preservation Resource Center / New Orleans Jazz Commission.