Memories Are Made at Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre
On Sept. 24, 1935, all of Marietta came out to the premiere of “Top Hat,” a film starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The town gathered at The Strand Theatre in Marietta Square, a brand-new art deco movie palace. With seating for 1000, as well as heating and air conditioning, The Strand was the most modern theatre outside of Atlanta.
Despite the initial excitement, less than two decades later, The Strand fell into disrepair. Fortunately, in 1953, a man named James Zimmerman stepped in as theatre manager. A born showman, Zimmerman returned The Strand to its former glory. With his unique marketing strategies — from serving punch from a bathtub to promoting movies with a live gorilla — he transformed The Strand into a place where the community made memories again. Zimmerman even turned The Strand into a destination for the stars, as Hollywood royals, including Alred Hitchcock himself, came to walk The Strand’s red carpet.
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Zimmerman would eventually be promoted to oversee theaters in five states. Without his loving guidance, The Strand fell into disrepair once again before being vacated in 2002. Though the building deteriorated, the memories Zimmerman helped make were not forgotten. Community leaders banded together to form the Friends of The Strand, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to reviving the beloved Marietta landmark.
Thanks to generous donations from the community, The Strand underwent a massive, $5 million renovation. On Jan. 8, 2009, the theater officially reopened as the Earl Smith Strand Theatre, in honor of the Cobb County businessman whose dedication helped restore the theatre. In addition to playing movies, the new Strand Theatre presented plays and musicals, live concerts, film festivals, comedy nights, and dozens of special events throughout the year.
In 2017, the Strand was renamed again to the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre, after Smith donated $500,000 in honor of his late wife.
Over 85 years, The Strand Theatre has seen its ups and downs, but the memories made at the theatre called the community to rally each time the beloved landmark was almost lost. Thanks to generations of citizens, today The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre is the heart of Marietta’s thriving art and culture scene.