Kendallville community rallies to keep ‘Strand Theatre’ open through pandemic

Local News

KENDALLVILLE, Ind. (WANE) – Longtime residents of Kendallville view the Strand Theatre as the anchor of downtown. For over a century, the theatre, with its glowing marquee, has served as a bedrock of the Kendallville community.

The Strand has overcome its fair share of challenges since opening in 1890, but nothing could have prepared ownership for what would happen last year.

Kevin Robbins and his family bought the theatre in March 2020, weeks before the world shut down from COVID-19. Movie theatres were crippled by the pandemic, including The Strand. Robbins remembers hearing from others in the community, concerned that The Strand would have to permanently close.

With theatres operating at a limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, Robbins and his family had to get creative to keep the theatre open. Ownership sold popcorn and other concessions throughout the year. Robbins remembers community members lining up for over an hour in March and April just to do their part to support the theatre. Kernels were popped for over five hours until supply ran out.

“The showing of support of this community is what keeps The Strand open, and we’re so honored to be here to see the The Strand theatre survive through COVID,” Robbins said.

The Strand was also awarded some grants to help pay for costs, according to Robbins. Combined efforts from the Robbins family and the Kendalville community helped keep the business open during the worst months of the pandemic.

The Strand Theatre boasts their reputation of offering some of the best popcorn in northeast Indiana

If Memorial Day weekend was any indication of what’s to come, then The Strand should enjoy something closer to a normal summer blockbuster season. More people are feeling comfortable about coming back to theatres now that mask and capacity limits are rolling back. It also helps that big-ticket movies like “A Quiet Place 2” and “Cruella” are being released, even if a few of these films are also available on streaming platforms.

“People want to get out, they’re tired of staying at home,” Robbins said.

Robbins and his family now look forward to greeting regulars and other guests who have not enjoyed the theatre experience in over a year.

“These are friends and family to us, because they’ve supported us through this hard year,” Robbins said.

After a difficult year, Robbins and his family look forward to continuing The Strand’s tradition of being a staple of the Kendallville community.

“We’ve survived this far,” Robbins said. “A lot of movie theaters have closed, and we’re fortunate enough that the community backed us to keep us open.”

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