What’s the Story With the Loew’s Balcony?

It seems some people don’t realize that Friends of the Loew’s began the massive project of refinishing and reinstalling the seats in the balcony several years ago.  So far, a dedicated team of volunteers has removed decades of rust and grime from the metal seat frames still bolted to the floor and the hundreds of associated metal parts of the seats in the Loge area. They’ve repainted the frames and parts with a water-based industrial epoxy primer and top coating.  The volunteers also removed, stripped, refinished and reinstalled the wooden armrests, and have reinstalled most of the reupholstered backs and bottoms in the Loge.  Right now, volunteers are working on refinishing the hand rails that ring the Loge.  As always, the paint and other supplies are being paid for from FOL’s own funds, small donations and grants (non-government sourced). 

Unfortunately, the Loew’s massive balcony – over 1,000 seats – remains off-limits for public use until the City fulfills its 10 year old commitment to find the funding necessary to bring the Theatre into compliance with its own safety and fire codes – including repairing the fire escapes from the balcony.  This is why it’s been difficult for FOL to work with commercial promoters to bring more concerts into the Loew’s – for most shows, the promotes need more seats than we have available on the first floor.

The inability to use the balcony is also why FOL paused our volunteer effort of refinishing and reinstalling seats after we had completed most of the seats on the first floor back in 2001.  The seat work was one of the most tedious, time-consuming projects FOL had taken on.  It made sense to hold off on continuing it until there was some timeline for when the balcony could be used.  This was especially true since beginning in 2001 the Loew’s was reopened for limited events, so volunteers were needed to help support theatre operation in addition to ongoing renovations and maintenance. 

When the City ended its first challenge to our lease, it briefly seemed that the City would keep its commitment to carry out the important repairs necessary to use the balcony, so FOL prepared to resume our volunteer seat work.  But of course, by 2011 the City had lost its UEZ money and so was again ignoring its commitment to the Loew’s.  But FOL decided to press on with seat work in the balcony anyway – partly in the hope that the effort might prod the City into doing what it is supposed to do.  But because there was, realistically, no timetable for being able to reopen the balcony and, thereby expand operations, FOL also decided to pursue a new strategy of undertaking important technical upgrades to stage lighting and sound in order to make the limited operations on the first floor more practical.  Both the seat re-installation and technical upgrades will continue this Summer with volunteer labor.