Howard Theatre, Historic 'Theatre for the People,' Reopens

WASHINGTON -- After 32 years, the Howard Theatre in the District of Columbia's Shaw neighborhood is reopening its doors once more. Beset by money problems, the historic landmark was forced to close in 1980.

At its opening in 1910, "The Theatre for the People," as it was known, was among the major venues for black artists.

After a $29 million renovation project, the historic landmark is ready for a new audience. In 2006, the non-profit Howard Theatre Restoration formed to raise funds for the restoration, a process which took four years. Ground was broken in 2010 to restore the D.C.-owned theater. Now, the building, located on T Street NW near 7th Street and Florida Avenue features a modernized interior operated by Blue Note Entertainment Group.

On Thursday, a grand opening gala concert will honor Howard Theatre's past and future with performances from Smokey Robinson and Wanda Sykes. Motown Records founder and producer Berry Gordy will be in attendance as the Howard Theatre begins its real work to function as a performing arts hub.

That may prove harder, as Washington City Paper laid out in an recent analysis.

In the meantime, the Howard Theater has been on center stage. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) were on hand for the community opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"We are proud to bring The Howard Theatre back to Washington D.C. and look forward to adding a brand new chapter to its illustrious history," Steven Bensusan, president of Blue Note Entertainment Group Steven Bensusan, said in a statement.