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But does the Strand have a future? The place isn't nearly as financially successful today as it was even two decades ago. The Internet has crushed the adult-theater business. "I'm not sure what the new business model is," says Snow, who admits that he'd consider selling the place if a buyer emerged. "It's an old building," he says. "They're costly to maintain."
Jori Sackin, a 32-year-old painter, musician and video artist, loves the place. "For about a year, I was totally obsessed with the Strand," he says. Sackin rented the Strand's auditorium two years ago for a one-night screening of Space Thang, a short movie he made with collaborator Pat Vamos.
"It was a film made specifically to be shown at the Strand, combining animation and clips of old 1970s sexploitation movies. Not the sex scenes but the parts in between. We had music and performance art that night, and we oversold the place. It only seats between 80 to 90 people, and we had 150 people show up. Everyone was so excited to be in the Strand."
Sackin sees the 96-year-old theater as a future urban multicultural arts center. "I have considered buying it," he says. "I go back and forth on the idea. I mean, there are issues. There's no parking, and the location is kind of strange. It's not that it's a bad neighborhood — in fact, it's almost desolate at night. But the building's not in good shape, and it hasn't been fully utilized in a long time. There are four apartments upstairs and the two retail spaces on each side of the lobby. You would have to imagine what the neighborhood might be in the next 20 years. Troost needs new businesses making money and attracting people."
For him, though, the Strand has no stigma. "The interesting story to me about the Strand is what people think it is and what it really is," he says. "When I was putting together my project, I really got to know the place and the people who work there. The guys working in the theater are the sweetest, nicest guys. It's this great small-business story."
But how long can this theater continue as it is? Sackin's arts-center vision would require a kind of gentrification that seems virtually impossible for this stretch of Troost. But at least one Hyde Park resident says seismic shift is on its way.
Jinx Wallace, a 25-year resident of Hyde Park, a few blocks from the Strand, points out that the redevelopment of her neighborhood from blighted to sought-after single-family homes "didn't happen overnight."
"All positive changes take awhile," she says. "Look, the evolution of the Crossroads as an arts district didn't happen overnight, either. And now that rents in that area are so expensive, artists are looking at other neighborhoods, including Troost. One of my neighbors has already turned a building on Troost into artist studios. And with so many of the old buildings on Armour being turned into market-rate apartments, there are possibilities that we couldn't imagine 20 years ago."
So what, she wonders, does Troost need in order to become a viable retail community again. "There's still a lot of disagreement about that," she says. "But yes, I'd like to see the Strand continue to operate in some fashion on Troost, especially if it brings more creative people to the neighborhood."
When the Strand marks its 100th anniversary in three years, it may not be open anymore — as a porn theater, anyway. Snow says he isn't planning that far ahead. But after so many years grinding away in the shadows, this stubborn piece of KC history may find its way into the light again. The Strand's sexiest days might be ahead.