The Carpenter Theatre first opened its doors in 1928 as a Loew’s Theater for moving pictures. It was shuttered in 1979 due to competition from suburban mul-tiplexes and changing demographics, and remained vacant until 1983. At that time, it was restored and reopened as the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts. The Carpenter Center again closed in 2004 for a $50 million rehabilitation by the CenterStage Foundation, that up-dated its acoustics, lobby and amenities while expanding its stage size to draw major touring shows. This project also incorporated the Carpenter into a four-venue performing arts complex, Richmond CenterStage, that provides the community with a rich and varied arts experience in downtown Richmond.
The architect of the original Carpenter, John Eberson, was a leading New York architect of the 1920s noted for his extravagant theater de-signs. The theater certainly bears his stamp. It is an elaborate interpre-tation of the Spanish Mission style, with a dark red brick exterior heavily ornamented with sculpted terra cotta and limestone. The rehabilitation preserved this style while creating a larger stagehouse to accommo-date Broadway shows, expanding the lobby, ticketing and concession areas and updating its acoustics, electrical systems, seating and ticket-ing technology to meet modern standards.
The theater has served as home for the Richmond Symphony, the Rich-mond Ballet and the Virginia Opera as well as smaller Broadway pro-ductions, special concerts and other performances.In its renovated state, the larger stage size (nearly doubled) now draws more than 40 touring plays, musicals, family shows and popular entertainment events annually. A dozen or more community presentations rounds out the calendar for the year, helping the theatre to stay busy for an estimated 200 days a year. These expanded offerings will bring new permanent jobs and increased foot traffic downtown, in addition to the projected $2.5 million in state and local taxes and $28.2 million in household and business income.