Strand Theatre celebrates centennial birthday Tuesday

1923 silent films showing with 25 cent admission price
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:38 PM EST
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ROCKLAND, Maine (WABI) - Tuesday is Strand Theatre Day in the city of Rockland.

The iconic downtown theatre is celebrating its centennial anniversary.

“Since 1923, this has been known as the Strand Theatre,” says Jessie Davis, executive director of the Strand Theatre. “After a fire, the Berry Brothers Stable Fire leveled this whole block, it was the first building to come up out of the ashes.”

The Strand was purposely built to show movies. It was one of three theaters in downtown Rockland at the time. The strand opened as a silent picture house.

“There was an organ so there would be musical accompaniment,” says Davis. “And then a few years later is when the talkies came in.”

That’s movies with a synchronized soundtrack, in case you’re wondering.

At the turn of the century, the Strand was forced to close after it and others like it fell victim to multiplex cinemas. But then Matt Simmons, a summer resident of Rockland and energy investment leader, purchased the theatre. It reopened in 2005 and a number of renovations and for awhile, things were looking up.

“The mathematical formula of running a single screen, single stage theater in a small town, just doesn’t work as a for profit. The only way you can make it work is if you charge $17 for a popcorn, which we do not,” says Davis, chuckling.

When Simmons died in 2013, his family wanted to continue his legacy of saving the Strand. They decided to turn the theatre into a non-profit to ensure its survival.

The Strand is now the longest, continuously running business in downtown Rockland. And there’s really just a handful of theatres like it around the state.

“You can watch a show anywhere now,” says Liz McLeod, house manager for the Strand. “You can watch a show on your television. You can watch a show on that little thing that’s in your hand. The experience that we want to give people when they come to the Strand is the thing. We have a saying here at the Strand- a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer in your pants.”

“The Strand of today serves as an anchor for downtown Rockland where the community gathers for a multitude of events,” says Louise MacLellan-Ruf, Mayor of Rockland.

Tuesday, MacLellan-Ruf will read this proclamation officially declaring February 21 as “Strand Theatre Day.” The strand will be showing three silent movies from 1923:

  • 1:00 pm: “Safety Last” (1923), a silent comedy film starring Harold Lloyd. More info
  • 3:00 pm: “The Pilgrim” (1923), a silent comedy starring Charlie Chaplin. More info
  • 7:00 pm: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923), a romantic drama starring Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller. More Info.

They’re also rolling back admission to the original price of 25 cents.

“Everybody knows the Strand,” says McLellan-Ruf. “Are we going to meet at the Strand on Sunday? Are we going to see the opera? So it’s not secret that the Strand is spectacular.”

“We have a slogan among the kids that work here- SFL. It means Strand For Life,” adds McLeod. “We’ve had generations of kids that have worked here that would say. SFL and they would perk up because they remember what it was like to be a part of this. And it’s still that way today.”

For more information on Tuesday’s centennial celebration at the Strand or to see what’s showing, log onto or check them out on Facebook.