Strand Theatre in Rockland gifted by previous owners to new non-profit group

Friends marqueeOwnership of the Strand Theatre in Rockland has been gifted from the family of longtime Rockport summer residents Matthew and Ellen Simmons to a new non-profit group, the Friends of the Strand Theatre, who with existing staff assumed control of operations of the historic theater last week.

“We’re not looking to change anything at all. Our audience really loves the Strand, and if anything, this is just going to afford us the ability to do what we do now even better,” said Sarah Ruddy, executive director of the theater.

The Strand was purchased by the Simmons family in 2003, after the Main Street theater had sat empty for more than three years. Over the course of a decade, the Simmons quietly had the theater renovated and restored to its original art deco style from when it opened in 1923, and returned it to its roots as a cultural center for the Midcoast. Art house cinema screenings, lectures, musical performances and HD broadcasts of opera and theater have been a regular part of the programming since the late 2000s.

In 2010, Matthew Simmons passed away, at which point the family began to explore options for the theater’s future. A board was assembled in 2013, and last week, ownership was transferred.

“They wanted to give the theater wholly back to the community,” said Ruddy. “We operated as a for-profit theater before, with the Simmons family as the sole donors. Now we’ll be able to be directly involved with the community. The only major change you’ll see coming up will be the fact that we’ll now be offering memberships.”

Upcoming events at the Strand include a satellite location and broadcast for the 2014 Camden Conference, screenings of the films “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “The Great Beauty,” as well as a program of 2014 Oscar nominated short films.

“We’re just going to focus on being the best we can be. The community has so much confidence in us,” said Ruddy. “They know we do what we do well.”

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.