Comments from Backseater

Showing 26 - 50 of 103 comments

Backseater commented about Mather Auto Movies on Nov 29, 2005 at 12:37 pm

I went there several times while attending USAF Navigator School at Mather AFB (right across the street) in 1968. It ran stuff like “Barbarella” and “The Green Berets” (although those two were not shown at the same time) plus the occasional euro-trash porno feature. I also remember something called “Duffy” with James Coburn, James Mason, James Fox (three top-billed actors all named James made an interesting pattern in the newspaper ad), and Susannah York who spent a major portion of the movie wearing a teeny-tiny bikini. This was the year before her appearance in “The Killing of Sister George.” Good times…..

Backseater commented about Old Spanish Trail Theater on Nov 28, 2005 at 2:11 am

From 1949 to 1954 I lived at Calhoun Road and Marietta Lane just a couple of miles from the OST. You could look from our house out across the vacant lots and see the theater off in the distance, and even the old Shamrock Hotel WAY off in the distance. I went there almost every Saturday morning and saw almost all the chapters of the “Captain Video” serial. Dana Grantham (see above) probably took my ticket. I remember seeing the original “War of the Worlds” (beware of imitations) at the OST—or rather, not seeing it: being eight years old, I was so scared I hid under the seat. Many years later, when coerced into seeing the Tom Cruise remake (“Yes, dear…”) I wanted to hide again; but this time it was because the movie was so bad. Unfortunately, now I was too big to fit under the seat.
In 1983 I was in Houston on business for several weeks and went by to see the OST for old times' sake. It looked closed, but there were signs of recent operation. The character of the neighboorhood had changed considerably.
This link View link shows a picture of the OST in 2004. I don’t remember it as having a balcony, but an upper-level fire escape is visible.
Here’s to Captain Video, and good luck and good counting to all!

Backseater commented about Alabama Theatre on Nov 12, 2005 at 1:10 pm

That’s very nice: I remember it being much darker. Must be during or post-restoration.
Now I have to look up ‘scagliola.'
Thanks for the post.

Backseater commented about Village Cinema on Nov 5, 2005 at 5:41 pm

The Village was located in a strip mall on South Perkins in the heart of suburbia. Like the Balmoral (q.v.), it was built for a market that never materialized, and lasted only a few years. One theory is that increasing availability of Cable TV and VCR tapes did this type of theater in.
Sorry I can’t provide a descrition, but I went there only once—to see Tyne Daly, Richard Jaeckel, Lana Wood, and Joe Don Baker in “Speedtrap” (1977) where they smashed up about three years worth of surplus California (or maybe Arizona) Highway Patrol cars in a very few minutes of screen time. You can tell I haven’t wasted MY life….

Backseater commented about Strand Theatre on Nov 3, 2005 at 12:57 am

My best recollection is that the Strand was always called the Strand, from 1963 to 67 at least; and a newspaper article about 1966 when it closed briefly said (I think) that it had been so named since the 20s. There may have been one or more Majestics in Memphis before my time, but I don’t remember hearing about them. The first Majestic I saw was in San Antonio, Texas (q.v.) and it sure was. Fortunately it escaped the wrecking ball and was restored.
Google lists a Malco Majestic at 7051 Malco Crossing way out to the Southeast near Winchester and Route 385 (Nonconnah Parkway), but that’s clearly a newer one…

Backseater commented about Front Street Theatre on Oct 24, 2005 at 11:58 pm

This theater is on the South side of Madison Avenue just West of McLean. When I arrived in Memphis in 1963 it was operating as a live venue known as Front Street Theater, even though it was a long way from Front Street. The bar/lounge upstairs under the balcony was a local talking point. By the early 1970s it had gone to porn—and not even very high-class porn, at that—and was limping along. I lost track of it in the late 70s, but believe it was closed for a while. Glad to hear the building was saved, at least.

Backseater commented about Bristol Theatre on Oct 24, 2005 at 11:43 pm

The Bristol was a smaller neighborhood theater just West of Highland Street. According to Memphis old-timers, It got its name from the time when the area was way out in the suburbs and that section of Summer Avenue was called the “Bristol Highway.” Bristol is clear at the other end of Tennessee, about as far away from Memphis as you can get and still be in the state. In the mid-to-late 1970s it was being run by a Memphis movie buff named Mitchell Shapperkotter, probably more for a hobby than as a true commercial endeavor. I remember reading an article in the Commercial Appeal about it. My friend Bill Kendall, once manager at the Guild Theater (q.v.), worked there briefly after he left the Guild but eventually gave it up. I saw one film there—a second-run screening of John Wayne in “The Shootist,” which would have been 1977 or thereabouts. It was demolished shortly after that. I don’t remember much about the theater except that it had a very long, narrow lobby running clear through the office block to the auditorium on the back side. It wasn’t in real good shape in those days, either.

Backseater commented about Hickory Ridge Mall Cinema on Oct 23, 2005 at 11:56 am

Saw several shows there in the early 1980s including “Time Bandits” and “The King of Comedy.” It was still running when I left Memphis in 1983. The entrance was in the mall and if the last show ended afterthe mall closed, you had to go out the back exits through winding corridors to the parking lot. Other than that, I can’t remember much about it—a typical anonymous mall multiplex of the period. Best wishes.

Backseater commented about Linden Circle Theatre on Oct 19, 2005 at 7:35 pm

In the late 1970s and early 80s on Sundays I used to bicycle all around Memphis. I usually got down to Riverside Drive, and would then go up Beale Street past the Orpheum and the Daisys to the bus garage and around Linden Circle to Peabody; then back East to the MSU area. I remember passing a church on Linden Circle, with movie theater architecture, at or very close to this address according to the maps, with a sign reading “God Save America Prayer Temple.” I never saw any people there; and since I went by on Sunday mornings, that’s probably not a good sign. Anyway, I suggest that as late as 1980, this could have been the retreaded Linden Circle Theater.

Backseater commented about Airways Theatre on Oct 19, 2005 at 3:56 am

The Airways was one of the larger “neighborhood” theaters. It had a spacious auditorium with a balcony. In size I would compare it to the Rosemary (q.v.) but with less ornate decoration. When I first saw it in the 60s it was already a porn house, showing mostly Euro-trash but occasionally some home-grown material such as “Surftide 77” and “The Bare Hunt.” The balcony was “reserved for couples only.” The area was a little frightening even then and I only went there a few times. When I returned to Memphis in 1973 it was still running, and I went there once to check it out. Once was enough. The neighborhood, the theater, and the show had all deteriorated even further. In later years I drove by occasionally and it was still operating for a while, but eventually closed. Sorry I can’t provide any more recent information.

Backseater commented about W. C. Handy Theatre on Oct 19, 2005 at 3:45 am

That sounds about right. The Handy was on the South side of Park Avenue just East of Airways, which is a Southward extension of East Parkway. Mapquest shows the address to be right where I remember it.
Mapquest also confirms 3475 Central Avenue (see the earlier posting on the Handy Cultural Renaissance Theater) to be just East of Highland, also as I suspected. Lots of retreaded old mansions in that area.

Backseater commented about W. C. Handy Theatre on Oct 16, 2005 at 5:00 pm

In the unfortunate era of segregation, African-American theaters in the South were sometimes named after well-known African-Americans such as W.C. Handy. That way, someone reading the newspaper ads would realize that it was an African-American theater and either go or not go, as appropriate in the social context of the times—without having to actually say anything. Another example was the Carver theater in Birmingham, Alabama (q.v.)

Backseater commented about Suzore Theatre #1 on Oct 16, 2005 at 3:15 am

Re: Elvis' boyhood favorite (see comments above and also for the other Suzore theater).
Careful study of the maps indicates that the Suzore No. 2 on North Main St. was only a few blocks from the Lauderdale Courts projects. This theater, The Suzore No. 1 on Jackson Avenue was farther away, although still within walking distance. This supports the idea that it was the Suzore No. 2 that Elvis attended as a child, so the old-timers who told me it was the other way round were probably mistaken and Mr. Goldman was probably correct.

Backseater commented about Suzore's # 2 Theatre on Oct 16, 2005 at 3:08 am

Re: Elvis' boyhood favorite (see comments for the other Suzore theater).
Careful study of the maps indicates that this theater was only a few blocks from the Lauderdale Courts projects where Elvis lived in the late 1940s/early 50s. The Suzore No. 1 on Jackson Avenue is farther away, although still within walking distance. This supports the idea that it was the Suzore No. 2 on North Main St. that Elvis attended as a child, and where he saw the early Tony Curtis movies that formed the basis of his later image as suggested by Albert Goldman in his Elvis biography.

Backseater commented about Crosstown Theatre on Oct 15, 2005 at 2:31 am

In the picture posted above, I believe the building in the background just behind the “Crosstown” sign is the Sears Roebuck store.

Backseater commented about Strand Theatre on Oct 15, 2005 at 2:03 am

Just noticed from the maps and street numbers that it must have been just North, not South, of Loew’s State. Sorry, it’s been a long time…

Backseater commented about Loew's Palace Theatre on Oct 14, 2005 at 5:08 pm

Mr. Dunklin, I’ve been thinking hard about it and wish I could remember more. I seem to recall that the lobby was narrow but rather deep, going in quite a distance before opening up to full auditorium width. It was also high, with a vaulted ceiling sort of like the Alabama theater lobby in Birmingham (q.v.), but smaller and darker. I remember the window wall at the back of the auditorium as described above, and if you got restless I think you could stand or walk up and down behind it and still see the show. The restrooms were up one flight of stairs on either side, at the landings where the stairs turned and went on up to the balcony; ladies on house left, men on the right. There was a vending machine in the mens' room that dispensed novelties of somewhat questionable taste. I don’t remember much about the auditorium, except for the ornamental leaded-glass “Exit” signs which I also saw at Loew’s State and years later at the State Theater in Cleveland, Ohio. They were made like stained glass windows but just said “Exit” in red on a white background. Maybe a feature common to the chain, or a favorite device of the architect. This made an impression on me because I had never seen anything like that before. Otherwise I’m still a bit vague, but if I recall anything else I’ll certainly post it. I had the impression that the theater was demolished before 1983 since I left Memphis in 83 and I remember seeing it being torn down—whereas everybody else says it lasted until 1985. Now I finally recall the details of that episode. I came back to Memphis several times throughout the late 80s, because no sooner had I left to go to graduate school in Birmingham, than I got involved with an old SW classmate who was still in Memphis, whom I ended up marrying in 1986 at the Unitarian Church on the River (still married as this is written, 19 years and counting). Anyway, sometime in 1985 I was back in Memphis for the weekend to visit her and also to work out at Kang Rhee’s Pasaryu Tae Kwon Do academy, and we went to visit a friend who had just bought an apartment in the newly “condo’d” Shrine Building right across Union Avenue from Loew’s Palace. I looked out the window and saw the Palace, frozen in time in the process of being demolished. Most of the roof was gone and you could see the rows of seats, so you’re right that it went down with the seats still in place. So the time discrepancy is solved and I’m certainly glad to get that cleared up. If anything else comes back to me I will be sure to let you know. By the way, I really enjoyed your description of other Memphis theaters, especially the Malco/Orpheum, which I attended many times but never got to tour backstage. However, I did incorporate the “ritual circumnavigation of the Orpheum” into my Sunday morning Memphis bike ride. Please feel free to email at . Meanwhile, Best wishes.

Backseater commented about Desoto Towne Cinema on Oct 14, 2005 at 12:30 am

From the map, this does not appear to be the same as the Southhaven multiplex I remember from the 1970s/80s. That was on the West side of Highway 51 just South of the Tennessee State Line.

Backseater commented about Crosstown Theatre on Oct 13, 2005 at 5:36 pm

In 1951 the area was probably thought of as suburban…

Backseater commented about Plaza Theatre on Oct 13, 2005 at 12:36 am

There was no balcony as such, just a couple of “cry” or “party” rooms upstairs flanking the projection booth. The auditorium was split right down the middle when they twinned it.

Backseater commented about Suzore Theatre #1 on Oct 11, 2005 at 12:51 pm

That’s probably right then; my information was relayed from others, and maybe they or I (and Mr. Goldman, too) remembered it wrong. The building and sign were so far gone when I saw them that there was no way to tell. Thanks.

Backseater commented about Suzore Theatre #1 on Oct 11, 2005 at 4:26 am

This was the one known as the Suzore No. 2. Albert Goldman’s highly uncomplimentary and controversial biography of Elvis Presley (which I neither endorse nor condemn personally) states that while living in the Lauderdale Court projects nearby, Elvis went often to the Suzore No. 2. There, supposedly, he saw several early 1950s Tony Curtis movies that had a major role in shaping his image. In the late 1970s I occasionaly went biking down Jackson Avenue and would go right past the remains—or ruins—of the Suzore No. 2. It had obviously been closed a long time and was literally collapsing in slow motion. The large once-vertical sign was lying on its side in the grass beside the building, rusting away.

Backseater commented about Strand Theatre on Oct 11, 2005 at 3:27 am

The Strand was just South of Loew’s State with maybe a couple of small storefronts between. It wasn’t as grand as the other Main Street movie cathedrals—probably more in the league of the Princess just up the street (but which I never saw inside). I remember there were pillars supporting the balcony which caused some visibility problems. When I arrived in Memphis in 1963 it was limping along with conventional fare, such as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in “A New Kind of Love.” By 1964-65 it had gone to porn, the fate of many downtown theaters across the US in that era. In an attempt to maintain their dignity, or maybe to reduce pressure from the vice squad, they always ran a double feature with some entirely conventional rerun as the main show. So you had to sit through a Robert Mitchum war movie or Doris Day musical before getting to the good stuff. The porn would be probably be considered mild by most folks nowadays, but was certainly controversial enough in the 60s. I remember Russ Meyer’s “Lorna” and “The Immoral Mr. Teas,” several early Barry Mahon and David Friedman classics, and a series of European “naturist” movies with the original German or French soundtrack replaced by English voice-over with an inspiring public-domain music score. If anyone is interested, a lot of this material is now available on VHS/DVD from an outfit in Seattle called Something Wierd Video. Camera angles and cuts were carefully (almost surgically) selected to avoid showing anything beyond topless. Even so, the Strand was constantly in conflict with the vice cops. The papers either censored their ads or refused to take them altogether, and I think it was raided and closed briefly a few times. Still it was popular enough with the sailors from Millington and college students, etc. to turn a profit for a few years. Another porn house was the Airways theater way out East at Airways and Lamar. The last time I went to the Strand was in June of 1967 to see a Euro-nudie called “Sunswept.” When I came back to Memphis in November of 72 I drove in from Arkansas and went right down Main Street, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Urban Renewal had struck. The Warner, the Princess, Loew’s State, and the Strand were gone without a trace. Only Loew’s Palace and the Malco (Orpheum) remained. The Palace was demolished in the late 70s as described elsewhere on this site, and the Orpheum narrowly escaped the same fate. I guess that’s progress.

Backseater commented about Southbrook Theatre on Oct 11, 2005 at 2:19 am

According to the map it’s at Highway 51 South and Shelby Drive, and that’s what I remember. I think it was built between 1967 and 72 because I never heard of it until I got back from the AF in November 72. It was originally a 4-plex and very modern with (I think) lots of chrome and plexiglass. It was entirely contained in the mall with no outside entrance. The box office was in a kiosk right out in the middle of the mall. In the early 1980s they expanded to a 7-plex. The three additional auditoriums were separate and about 100 feet down from the first four. I never saw Elvis there or heard of him going there, but it could be since it’s not far from Graceland. In Memphis Elvis lore, the Memphian (q.v.) and the Malco Ridgeway 4 were supposed to be his favorites for private screenings. It was a good long haul from the midtown area, but I went there now and then. Saw Vincent Price and Diana Rigg in “Theater of Blood” (a re-working of “House of Wax” and “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” and IMHO better than either although “House” has more historic significance); Albert Finney and just about everybody in “Murder on the Orient Express”; the original “Road Warrior”; Jesse Vint, June Chadwick, and Dawn Dunlap in “Forbidden World”; the softcore classic “The Cheerleaders”; Sissy Spacek and Nancy Allen in “Carrie”; and many others there. It was still operating in the spring of 1983 when I left Memphis, but that was the last time I saw it so I can’t report on later developments. Best wishes.

Backseater commented about Princess Theater on Oct 10, 2005 at 5:48 pm

I never went to the Princess, but walked and drove past it many times. It was on the West side of Main Street across from and a little North of Loew’s State. I don’t remember how it looked, but do recall the many wierd multiple bills on the marquee. They might have two westerns, a science fiction space opera, and a Roger Corman horror movie showing continuously. A popular joke was that if you were really down-and-out, you could always get a job at the Princess carrying the dead cowboys and monsters off the stage. Ah, memories.