Theater’s stained glass sees new life thanks to Baton Rouge hobbyist

Staying glassy

Once a local landmark in an era when going to the movies was a big night on the town, the Broadmoor Theatre hasn’t shown a film in about a decade, and is scheduled for demolition. But one of its trademark features will live on and remain in the entertainment industry.

The large section of stained glass that decorated the area above the theater’s concession stand has been bought, mostly by chemical engineer and Baton Rouge native Kim Hooper, both for her personal use and as stage props for a rock band, which is about to tour the United States and Canada.

If younger moviegoers can’t imagine stained glass in a theater, they probably also can’t imagine theaters showing only one movie at a time, which was what the Broadmoor did when it opened in 1965, showing “Lord Jim,” starring Peter O’Toole, as its first film. It remained a one-screen theater until 1973, when it became a twin cinema, later dividing again into four small theaters. But the stained glass, about 4 feet high and 31 feet wide, remained.

“It’s original to the building,” said Randolph Ogden, who owns the building. “Victor Coursey, for whom Coursey Boulevard is named, was our decorator at the time we built the Broadmoor, and he came up with that.”

When Hooper, a stained-glass hobbyist, heard about the glass being up for sale, the timing couldn’t have been better. Her cousin, Jeff Penalber, is the production manager and sound engineer for Scale the Summit, a Texas-based, instrumental rock band that is about to travel to 23 states and six Canadian provinces. He asked her if she could design a prop for the tour.

She approached Ogden, who had already sold about 30 of more than 100 pieces of the glass, and bought the rest.

“It’s really, pretty colors,” she said. “The glass is utterly disgusting as far as dirty. It got years of popcorn grease and dust and being in an abandoned building.”

She turned much of the glass into two panels 4 feet wide and 6 feet 8 inches high — more than a foot taller than Hooper — that will serve as on-stage backdrops for the band, adding a few glass sheets she already owned.

It’s the biggest stained glass project she has ever produced, although she also plans to turn the remaining glass into a decorative banister for her art studio stairwell.

“At first, I was not interested in purchasing any or all of the glass, since I am only a hobbyist and I do not need the inventory,” she said. “But I was hoping that someone would be able to preserve the memory and grandeur of the theater in some way.”