Story: In 2000, New Orleans unveiled Jazzland, a theme park that celebrated the city’s culture and offered a much needed recreational outlet to the region. While the park was a big hit when it first opened, with guests pouring in to explore the grounds, Jazzland would fail to turn a profit and of course, that spelled impending doom. A few years later, Jazzland would face closure, only to be bailed out when Six Flags stepped in to take over. Millions were to be invested and the park would be not only updated, but given a large water park and some new thrill rides. But before Six Flags could turn the park around, Hurricane Katrina would devastate the area and leave the park closed. It would never reopen. In Closed for Storm, the history of Jazzland is explored, including the efforts undertaken to either reopen the park or put the land to use in the wake of Katrina.
Entertainment Value: I was drawn to Closed for Storm because of my interest in abandoned tourist attractions, but this proves to be more than an archival look back at a shuttered theme park. The movie looks at New Orleans on the whole, both before and after the catastrophic damage caused by Katrina. The natural disaster is woven into Jazzland’s legacy in an inseparable way, especially in how the land is handled long after the hurricane ended. A lot of New Orleans was rebuilt, but some aspects were delayed or ignored, with people out of their homes and forced to relocate, while some areas were swiftly restored in the storm’s wake. This documentary looks at the social and cultural implications of Jazzland and its closure, as well as Katrina’s impact in those same respects overall. There is some interesting archival footage from Katrina’s assault on New Orleans, including some ground level, handheld camerawork that is quite a welcome inclusion.
While Closed for Storm does look into the social and cultural elements around the park and New Orleans in general, it does devote most of its runtime to the park itself. We hear from local citizens, politicians, those who want to reopen the theme park, and of course, some of the park workers, one of whom really loved their job. The interviews are candid and relay a wealth of worthwhile information, especially the first hand memories of the park and the circumstances around both its opening and closing, since we hear about it all from those who lived it. Of course, I loved the archival footage of the park and the marketing materials used to promote it, as the clips are like a time capsule of this interesting place and its role in New Orleans history. The pace is brisk and the overall experience is polished, so I give Closed for Storm a rock solid recommendation.