If you walk, bike, drive or unicycle past the Ludlow Theatre on the main drag Elm in Ludlow, KY, chances are you’ll spot an eclectic group of performers, artisans, business professionals and beer enthusiasts hard at work and play. Our merry band of workers and creatives have been busy deconstructing, brainstorming and preparing to reopen the theatre with the addition of BIRCUS.
Opening as a movie theatre with the premiere If I’m Lucky in 1946, the Ludlow Theatre boasted an Art Deco design and served as a primary source of local entertainment for years with evening shows, matinees and features. The building endured many transitions after its postwar heyday and eventually operated as a clutch manufacturing plant for over two decades until 2009. That year Paul and Renee Miller, husband and wife and creators of Circus Mojo, purchased the building with the backing of two benevolent uncles and the vision of restoring the theatre as a unique venue with broad appeal.
Since 2010, over 50,000 people attended the Ludlow Theatre’s events from plays, concerts and circus shows to square dances, pro-wrestling matches and improv comedy. Performers from 28 countries–Antigua to Australia, Ghana to Germany, Indonesia to Israel, and Suriname to Sudan–have visited Ludlow to perform with Circus Mojo and other exciting acts. Highlights include: Celebrity Circus and Benefit with Jerry Springer, Operation Grace White Benefit, Playhouse in the Park’s Off the Hill productions, Keshvar Projects‘s dance and music productions, Gorilla Cinema’s screening of It’s a Wonderful Life, concerts by Javier Mendoza and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, college circus festivals with performances by Duo Rose and Christian Stoinev, Jeff McBride’s Magic UnMasked and the City of Ludlow’s Sesquicentennial.
In 2013 the theatre secured a spot on the National Historic Register, the official list of historic places worthy of preservation in the U.S., and received State and Federal Historic Tax Credits. The National Historic Register states that the theatre is “an important property in the development of Ludlow, especially within that city’s entertainment culture” and “provides a strong example of the central role movie theaters played in small towns across the country during the movie boom following the Second World War.” A sentiment echoed when locals share their personal stories, which often begin with “That’s where I saw my first movie” or “That’s where I had my first kiss” (mostly endearing, occasionally TMI).
BIRCUS plans to make new memories for locals and visitors alike while paying tribute to history and community. Special events and performances will help solidify Ludlow as an entertainment destination, reminiscent of the Lagoon days or the theatre’s 1946 debut. And beer sales will help restore the original doors and marquee, restoration that never felt or tasted so good.