The Grand 16 Theatre in Lafayette will reopen Nov. 19 after almost four months of cleanup and renovation following the mass shooting there that left two women dead and nine other people wounded.
City-Parish President Joey Durel purchased the first ticket Monday morning after touring the facility, which, until last week, had been hidden behind a fence since the July 23 shooting.
“While we understand that the victims and their families will recover at their own pace, I think it’s important that we as a community get back to normal,” Durel said in a phone interview.
Although people could be seen working behind the fence in the months after the shooting, Southern Theatres LLC — which owns The Grand Theatre chain and other theaters across the South — had been mum about its plans for the facility.
A spokesman for the company did not immediately respond to a phone call Monday. A return call from an outside communications firm representing the theater company confirmed the date, but declined to offer additional details on opening night.
Durel said he expects some sort of ceremony to honor the victims, first responders and theater employees, also calling the theater’s reopening a “gift to Lafayette” still wounded from the tragedy.
“There’s been a lot more questions than answers, and I think (the reopening) is going to answer a lot of those questions to give the public a sense of relief,” Durel said.
He said the theater is completely renovated, with all new upholstery and fixtures, a new concessions stand and “more comfortable, wider seating.”
“Everything has changed,” Durel said.
Although the theater’s website does not yet have any movie times listed, Durel said his ticket is for the 7 p.m. premiere showing of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.”
The theater’s only public statement since the shooting — two sentences posted to The Grand 16’s website offering condolences for the victims and the community of Lafayette — had been removed by Monday afternoon.
Fresh paint in red and blue accented the theater’s sand-colored façade on Monday as a worker replaced its marquee lights along Johnston Street. Faded paper stars, stuffed animals and other mementos left in tribute to the victims remained at the marquee’s base.
Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, of Franklin, died in the shooting and nine others were wounded when an Alabama gunman opened fire about 20 minutes into a showing of the comedy “Trainwreck.” The gunman, John “Rusty” Houser, shot and killed himself as police entered the auditorium within minutes of the first shots.
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said in late October investigators are almost done with a report on the shooting, including a timeline of events and in-depth investigation into Houser, who had been living in Lafayette for a month before the shooting.
A collection of writings found in Houser’s hotel room were sent to the FBI for analysis. Other than what those documents may reveal, Craft has said his investigators were coming up short in determining a motive for the shooting.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.