The Fillmore may be San Francisco’s most famous music venue, but New Orleans is getting its own Fillmore- a 35,000 square foot live music and entertainment theater on the second floor of Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino, operated by concert juggernaut Live Nation. The theater will be an addition to a rich theater scene in the Central Business District, which is quickly becoming the go-to destination for music fans seeking out big touring acts.
The move hasn’t been officially announced, but Harrah’s and Live Nation filed for permits at city hall last week. It’s the culmination of nearly 20 years of back-and-forth; the city has been pressuring Harrah’s to add a concert space since leasing the property in 1998, but until now, the entire second level has been a glorified storage container. There were lawsuits and lease revisions, but it seems Harrah’s has finally capitulated, after a 2006 agreement to pay an additional quarter million in rent to the city if the space wasn’t in use by 2012. One roadblock may have been age restrictions (the casino itself is 21+) but the state has agreed to open the music venue to younger patrons.
The Fillmore is only the latest in a series of theaters to open in the area, but it stands out as a completely new addition to a crowd of revived and renovated standbys that the city revitalized in the years following Hurricane Katrina. The Mahalia Jackson Theater, the Joy Theatre, and the Saenger and Civic theaters all reopened their doors between 2009 and 2013.
Will the area be overcrowded? David Skinner, general manager of the Saenger and the Mahalia Jackson, doesn’t think so, although he also works in conjunction with Live Nation. Theaters just "have to find their niche," he said. If other casino venues are any indication, the Harrah’s stage will likely target an older audience, but steer clear of the musicals and edgy comedy shows the Saenger often features and the punk acts that come through the Joy. Instead, there’s likely to be plenty of classic rock acts and tribute bands, so older gamblers can enjoy some Styx in between slots, or some REO Speedwagon between rounds of roulette. The venue will be designed by Manning Architects of New Orleans; so far, details are scarce, but it’s likely to open sometime in late 2017 or early 2018.