New venue in basement of Altria Theater opening next month

And it will help the old theater grow new audiences.

The Altria Theater will debut its completed $50 million renovations on November 2nd when musician Ray LaMontagne performs. And while most visitors will ogle the theater’s improved facade and interior, a renovated ballroom in the building’s basement will give theater managers a new way to lure VCU students to the historic landmark.

“The ballroom now has been redone…fully, historically renovated,” said Dolly Vogt, regional general manager for SMG Richmond, the organization that stewards the 87-year-old theater.

Although dwarfed by the theater’s 3,565 seating capacity upstairs, the downstairs ballroom capacity of 1,0001 is nothing to sneeze at. It isn’t far off from the 1,500 capacity at The National, making the ballroom one of the city’s larger performance spaces. “It’s a nice size,” Vogt said. Something SMG hopes to leverage.

The company will use the ballroom to increase the Altria Theater’s entertainment options beyond the theater’s big-name draws like The Book of Mormon, Jerry Seinfeld, Mannheim Steamroller, etc. “What we’re doing it for is to make the venue much more versatile,” Vogt said. The ballroom could host local and national music acts, cabaret, burlesque shows, movie screenings, or virtually anything the space can hold. “We’re going to try to do all kinds of stuff down there.”

A lot of that stuff will cater to the thousands of VCU students surrounding the theater. “What we’re trying to do…is build a connection with the student body,” Vogt said. “We hope that the venue is going to evolve” with an array of events dialed into what students will like.

The renovated ballroom includes new light fixtures, acoustic curtains, sound system, and projector. The space also includes a dedicated bar and restaurant. “We’re going to be doing a lot of private catering events,” Vogt said. “We hope weddings, galas, and those type of things [too].”

Vogt said the ballroom will only host events when there are no shows taking place in the upstairs theater. While there’s currently no event calendar for the ballroom, Vogt said that it will have a “soft opening” staggered over the coming weeks. The public will soon be able to peek inside the entire renovated Altria Theater when SMG opens the building to public tours sometime in November.

The Altria Theater is located at 6 N. Laurel Street.


Image courtesy of SMG

  1. Seated capacity of 600. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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  1. Glad to see this idea fully realized. The ballroom used to be a punk venue back in the day ( I’ll be excited to see what they end up putting in there!

  2. scott on said:

    Lots of great acts have played down there over the years. Especially all the legendary punk acts. Glad to hear they want to bring that venue back.
    Worked in there a bunch over the years and it has always been so depressing. Nice stuff that was never maintained.

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