|Opening in 1947, the Joy Theater was a late-comer to movie theaters in the downtown
district. Although less luxurious than the Saenger or Lowe's, it became one of the more
popular Canal Street movie houses. It was the flagship of a theater circuit named for its
owner, Joy Houck. The company was based in New Orleans and owned theaters and
drive-ins across the South.
When I was doing research for this page, I found an interesting story about Mr. Houck,
written by one of his nephews: "The regional head of Paramount Pictures had an office in
the Saenger Theater, facing Canal Street. When Joy established his office in New Orleans,
he made a courtesy call to introduce himself. Joy was treated rudely and told, 'I don't need
to know who you are. I'll have you run out of town within two months.'
"Joy was not a man to take such treatment lightly. He bought the corner lot across from the
Paramount office windows, where he built the Joy Theater. When he ordered the theater
sign, saying simply 'JOY,' he had it made 80 feet high - it was huge. Joy often remarked,
'Every time that #%#% looks out of his window, he knows that I'm STILL in town!' "
And, indeed, the Joy Theater lasted longer than most of the downtown theaters. But, finally,
bowing to the popularity of suburban megaplexes, it closed its doors in 2003. The theater is
referred to in the title of a documentary about the decline of the grand old movie palaces,
"No More Joy: The Rise and Fall of New Orleans' Movie Theatres."
The Joy suffered extensive damages from flooding in the levee failures of 2005 and sat
abandoned and deteriorating for several years. But, at last, the landmark theater was
rescued and renovated by a team of developers under the name of NOLA Theatre District
LLC. It re-opened in December, 2011, as a live music and entertainment venue.
The re-opening of the luxurious Saenger Theatre soon followed the Joy's return, and hopes
are now high that all of the remaining historic downtown theaters can be given new life.
|The Joy's grand opening, 1947
|Line to the Joy circles the block for the movie, "Come September" in 1961.
|A sad Joy Theater before the renovation.
|Mr. Houck's sign once again burns brightly above Canal Street.