This year’s recipient of Heritage Ohio’s Historic Theater of the Year Award is downtown Delaware’s Strand Theatre. Main Street Delaware submitted the Strand’s nomination.
The annual award is presented to the historic theater, opera house, or cinema that “embodies the spirit of preservation,” according to Heritage Ohio, the state’s official historic preservation and Main Street organization. Nominees are judged for maintained integrity or completed restoration projects, active performance or screenings, and community engagement.
“I thank Main Street Delaware and Heritage Ohio for recognizing the Strand,” Managing Director Tracey Peyton said. “While all of us who represent the Strand were only doing what other businesses would be doing, it’s very humbling to be singled out. The community loves the Strand; and I am honored to be a steward of the historical icon.”
The Strand Theatre, 28 E. Winter St., was deeply affected by the pandemic. But instead of giving up, the 105-year-old cinema persevered, continuing to build its legacy as one of the 10 oldest continually operating movie theatres in the country showing first-run films.
In addition to the 2021 Heritage Ohio Award, the Strand’s perseverance also was rewarded this year when Main Street Delaware selected the theatre for its 2020 Business Innovation Award, which recognized the Delaware business that had a marked positive impact on the historic downtown and local community during the unprecedented year. Susie Bibler, executive director of Main Street Delaware said, “The Strand is such an important part of our downtown, and we can’t wait to see it return to its original love of showing first-run movies.”
In January 2020, the Strand started taking precautions to protect guests from COVID-19, but had to close in March 2020. At that point, the nonprofit theatre began working in earnest to ensure its survival. Its efforts included launching a virtual movie campaign to enable viewers to watch new independent films while still supporting the Strand. The theatre also started offering curbside popcorn on Fridays and Saturdays. In May 2020, it launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised $54,735 to support its operations.
In addition, the Strand started a marquee rental program and began selling T-shirts with movie quotes on them. In November 2020, the Strand launched a Bring Your Own Movie Program, which lets patrons set up their own screening times when the theater is closed. Guests bring their own DVDs, create their own concessions packages, and enjoy their favorite films. Although the Strand is back to showing first-run movies again, Peyton said it is maintaining some of these new popular programs.
Heritage Ohio’s annual Preservation and Revitalization Conference will be Oct. 18-20 in Springfield, Ohio, where Peyton will accept the award.
Joe Pemberton, president of the Strand Theatre Board of Directors, said this award belongs to the community as well as the movie theatre.
“The generosity of this community has no limits,” he said. “In Delaware County we dream big!”