Historic New Strand Theatre

 The New Strand Theatre is West Liberty's hometown theatre. Built in 1910 as an Opera House that entertained residents of West Liberty and those traveling by train, the New Strand is now a small one screen theatre seating 230 people set in the historic downtown 3rd street district of West Liberty, Iowa.

We show an evening movie daily and two screenings on the weekends. Our movie theater shows the latest digtal 2D/3D movies in surround sound. Additionally, we host live events, cordially host the local Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre and other non-profit events, and are available for private rental outside of movie showtimes.  

 The New Strand Theatre has been in a constant state of change and restoration. From keeping up with film technology, to keeping the old building alive and well, the few owners of the New Strand have made every effort to preserve the historic beauty of the old theatre. 

Renovations and repairs to the New Strand are costly. There is always something needing to be restored to prevent deterioration, repaired back to functioning, or something to be updated to provide the highest quality film and sound standards that keep the doors open and people flowing through. We need your help to keep the restoration process going. 

Todd Leach sold the New Strand in December, 2015 to Malcolm Howes and Debra Lowman.  Howes has been employed by the New Strand since his high school days and participated in the restorations that the Leach family completed. Lowman and Howes have continued to restore and repair the theatre building.

In 2016, the stage had numerous holes in the floor and several leaks in the roof. The stage floor was repaired and the stage area given a new roof, this time with insulation. They also upgraded the computer and climate control in the projector room.

Finally in 2016, Howes and Lowman redecorated the ticket booth and staff area, replumbed, and retiled the concession/ticket booth area.

In 2017, Howes and Lowman moved to the third floor and redid the roof over Knights of Pythias room. The two roofs were a huge undertaking and Howes and Lowman removed 4-6 inches of roofing material on each of the two roofs and repaired several years of water damage. They estimated 14 tons of roofing material left the New Strand taking a huge weight off of the building beams.

In 2017 the New Strand also received repairs to the main climate control system, the sound system, and the projector software.

In 2018, Howes focused on the balcony area. He put in subfloor and built the vented area for the projector to move to in order for the balcony to reopen to the public. Additionally,  the movie projector moved forward, allowing the balcony restoration to move to the next phase.

In 2019  Howes  and Lowman redid the stage lighting and repaired the stage floor and once again hosted live theater,  a community theater production of It's A Wonderful Life in collaboration with the public library.

2020 work has continued on the balcony and third floor but renovation has slowed with COVID-19. 

Following the trend of the previous owners, both Howes and Lowman have day jobs outside of the New Strand. The theater covers its own operating expenses, but the cost of renovations have come from the personal investments of the owners.  From 2016- current Howes and Lowman have taken no portion of the theatre earnings for profit, rather turning any amount earned (about $10,000) back into the theater repairs.  

Community support is needed to continue restoration of the New Strand without delays. Without help the restoration can occur only as savings is built from revenue over time. Our fear is that deterioration will occur faster than we can put the funds together to keep on top of the restoration process.  The Plan Howes and Lowman have many plans to continue to restore the New Strand. Some of the plans include the restoration of the stage area for live performance use. This will require sound upgrades that would allow live events to tap into the main sound system of the theatre and the addition of stage lighting. They also plan to restore the second floor balcony seating and add a mini-concession area and public restroom to the second floor. In order to open the balcony, the projection room will have to undergo major upgrades and improvements including a separate projection box to be built at the front of the balcony containing a sophisticated ventilation system to adequately keep the projection equipment cooled and relocation of the current sound system to a smaller, more separate area of the second floor to accomodate seating and convenient entry.  Howes and Lowman would also like to refurbish the front marquee. Currently the metal marquee wraps around the original wooden marquee and that has begun to deteriorate. A metal frame support at the very least will need to be added to the marquee.  Howes and Lowman will renovate the existing projectionist's apartment located on the third floor. Additionally,  they plan to add two additional apartments. The new living space will feature all of the restored beauty of the Knights of Pythias area including the vault ceiling and high windows. Currently the third floor area surrounding the projectionist's apartment is severely deteriorated. Windows, ceiling, flooring and utilities will all have to be addressed as well as a safe, modern stairway entry into the Knights of Pythias area. Currently the only entry into the Knights of Pythias area is through the projectionist's apartment. There is an exit on the north side of the third floor to the roof area but the only structure on the back of the building is a furniture lift installed in the early 1900's to accomodate the furniture store located immediately to the east of the New Strand. These are just some of the things that are in the planning stages. They aren't necessarily in order and we don't have a set time frame. Rennovation occurs as funding allows and necessity dictates. We are sharing our hopes and dreams here.  History The full history of the New Strand can be found at : http://newstrand.com/about-us/history/ Read more about the New Strand: http://westlibertyindex.com/article.php?viewID=6475 http://www.midwestliving.com/travel/30-classic-midwest-movie-theaters/ http://muscatinejournal.com/business/west-liberty-farmer-keeps-new-strand-and-happy-times-running/article_1b3a7ed3-ef20-53ac-bf00-7f58acfb89c9.html http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/3104
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Deb Lowman 
West Liberty, IA
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