Showing 51 - 75 of 106 comments
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.
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.
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.
The way I heard it from Memphis show business old-timers, both the Rosemary and the Luciann (q.v.) were built by Augustin Cianciolo, a Memphis movie entrepreneur who named them after his daughters. The Rosemary appeared to be a little older and a little more ornate, in the late 1920s or at least pre-WWII style—in contrast to the stark, functional-looking Luciann. A script addition to the big “Rosemary” sign read, “A Cianciolo Theater.” I remember the lobby and restrooms as being very cramped. It was at the intersection of Jackson and Watkins, a mile or two West of the Southwestern campus, and I used to walk there and back to see the show (hey, I was on the cross-country team!) Saw “The Great Escape,” the original “Manchurian Candidate” (beware of imitations), Glenn Ford and Stella Stevens in “Advance to the Rear,” and Peter Ustinov and Melina Mercouri in “Topkapi” there, all first run I believe. My friend Bill Kendall who managed the Guild theater (q.v.) had grown up right across the street from the Rosemary and said he went there almost daily as a kid. This experience helped make him perhaps the greatest movie afficionado in the entire Memphis area. The Rosemary was still standing in 1973, but was torn down not long after and replaced by a branch of First Tennessee Bank. That lasted only a few years and was itself closed and then demolished in the early 80s. Until I left Memphis in 1983 I used to bicycle down Jackson Avenue occasionally, but don’t remember anything special there in the later years. Too bad.
The way I heard it from Memphis show business old-timers, both the Rosemary (q.v.) and the Luciann were built by Augustin Cianciolo, a Memphis movie entrepreneur who named them after his daughters. The Luciann was on the North side of Summer Avenue just East of Trezevant/East Parkway. It was already closed as a movie theater when I first saw it in 1963 and I’m pretty sure it was a bowling alley at that time. Later it returned to show business as a porno center, with private viewing booths and tape rentals, according to signs on the building. I never went in it, even though I lived only a few blocks away, at two different periods, for several years in all. From the outside it had that shortly-after-WWII “airplane hangar” look. Best wishes.
The Crosstown was on the East side of Cleveland a little South of North Parkway and the huge Sears Roebuck store mentioned above. Old-timers said it had been started in 1941 and construction was suspended during WWII so it was just a hole in the ground until 1946. I first saw it in 1963 as a freshman at Southwestern, which was a couple of miles East on North Parkway. Saw Jean-Paul Belmondo in “That Man from Rio” and Annette Funicello in “Muscle Beach Party” there, among others (you can tell I haven’t wasted MY life). It was still in business when I got back from the AF in 1973, playing things like “Towering Inferno” and re-releases of “2001-a Space Idiocy.” Malco wasn’t pleased with the cash flow, but didn’t want to let anybody else run it for fear of the competition, so they let it sit vacant for a while in the late 70s. They were looking for a way to unload it to someone who wouldn’t use it a movie theater. Enter the Jehovah’s Witnesses. By the time I left Memphis in 1983, they had taken over not only the theater for a conference center, but the entire surrounding block for offices, classrooms, and so forth. They left the marquee and the huge vertical “Crosstown” sign in place. I bet it’s real clean inside…. Best wishes.
Update: this web address
describes Malco’s “Studio on the Square,” a 5-plex at 2105 Court Street [sic]. I couldn’t find a map link on the site, but the name and address are certainly consistent with an Overton Square location, given the confusion of ‘street’ and ‘avenue’ as described above. Cinema Tour is a good site with lots of period photos, but without the commentary we have here; by all means, check it out. This was the first I had ever heard of such a theater, but then I haven’t been in Mempho in about 7 years and not in Overton Square for longer than that, so my speculation that it’s a recent construction is probably right. Malco stands for the M.A. Lightman Company, which operates multiplex theaters all over the mid-South. Just what Overton Square needed, a Malco 5-plex… Best wishes.
I’m living in Dallas now, but still have relatives in Ballinger and go there on occasion. My mother grew up there and her youngest brother and his 4 kids and their families (and dogs and cats) are still there. Drop me a line if you like at
I never went to either Daisy, but remember going to the Orpheum (then the Malco) in the early 1960s, and looking up Beale from Main and marvelling at the incredible level of activity. Much later in the late 1970s on Sunday mornings I would go biking in the area, and after my ritual “Circumnavigation of the Orpheum” would ride up Beale to the bus garage and then over to Central/Peabody and back East to the MSU area. I must have gone up Beale St. dozens of times while they were renovating it, so it was like watching the renovation in time-lapse. For most of the buildings, they propped up the facades and then tore down and rebuilt the buildings behind them. I think both Daisys (and maybe also the famous Schwab’s Drug Store) were spared this indignity and just conventionaly renovated, but I could be wrong. There was a modern 3-or 4-plex in the area at that time called the Muhammad Ali Cinema, said to be at least partially owned or backed by Mr. Ali himself. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but I did go there once to see “Take a Hard Ride,” an African-American-oriented Italian western with Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, and Fred Williamson—not to mention Dana Andrews, Lee Van Cleef, Catherine Spaak, and Barry Sullivan. I saw the cast list in the newspaper ad and said, “This I’ve got to see!” As I recall it, everybody was very cordial. Best wishes.
Along with many other shows over the years (as usual), I saw Clint Eastwood in “Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More” both first-run at the Palace in 1967. All 3 of the Sergio Leone “Man With No Name” classics were released in the US in 67, though the first two were shown in Europe earlier. “Fistful” played the Palace in January or February and “More” was in May, right in the middle of final exam week at Southwestern (AKA “Rhodes College”). I had been studying very hard all week (yeah, right…) and just couldn’t look at another higher mathematics book, so I went to the Palace to mellow out with Clint. Imagine my surprise on encountering an SW classmate in the lobby, scheduled for the same exam the next day. He said that there were several other SW/future Rhodes scholars mellowing out at the Palace that evening, including the prof who was giving the test—but who was perhaps understandably not as concerned about it as we were. Later I learned that this was an alternate interpretation of the phrase “cram for a test”: at a certain point, you just say “cram it” and go to a movie. Anyway I passed the final, graduated, and went off to the Air Force—and then about five months later as a shavetail completed the trilogy by seeing “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at the magnificent Aztec theater in San Antonio, Texas, listed elsewhere on this site—but that’s another story. Other movies I saw at the Palace included “Tom Jones,” Dean Martin and Kim Novak in Billy Wilder’s “Kiss Me, Stupid,” and a mid-60s re-release of the 1958 Hammer version of “Dracula” with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Best wishes.
Update: the one I mention above as the “Colonial” may actually have been the Whitehaven Twin, a 1950s-era free-standing single screen, later twinned. It was on the East side of Elvis Presley Blvd but a mile or two North of Graceland. There was also the Bristol on Summer Avenue a little bit West of Highland, just North of I-40, demolished in the late 1970s. It was said to have been built when Summer Avenue was still called the “Bristol Highway.”
On further reflecdtion, the one on 51 South might have been called the Bellvue Drive-in.
The Summer Drive-In that I remember was definitely on the North side of Summer Avenue and East of loop 240. The very first Holiday Inn was in the same area, on the South side of Summer and West of 240. The first three Holiday Inns ever built were this one and two more on Highway 51, one North and one South of Memphis. Mr. Wilson was said to have gotten the idea from the 1940s Bing Crosby movie of the same name. I think all three had been sold and were no longer Holiday Inns by the 1970s. The Fare 4 quadruplex was also nearby, just West of 240 and on the South side of Summer Avenue, backing up to White Station. It was later expanded to a 10-plex. There was also a youth arcade or party center called the “Saturn” or something like that, very close to the Fare 4. If there were two Summer drive-ins as described above, that would explain why I remember hearing about it while a car-less Southwestern student in the early 1960s, whereas others remember it opening in 1966. The area became pretty run-down in the late 70s and early 80s, and some barbecue restaurants were converted to topless bars—but I wouldn’t know anything about that. Other Memphis area drive-ins included the Frayser, the 51 on South Highway 51 in Whitehaven, and one on Lamar Avenue near Getwell or Mendenhall and another on Park Avenue near East Parkway, which I’m still trying to remember the names of. Best wishes.
On the other hand, the article appears pretty sure of itself, and I suppose I could be wrong…it does happen occasionally.
I’m pretty sure it was operating in the early 1960s. I didn’t have a car then so I couldn’t go there, but I remember seeing ads for it as early as 1963-64. If so, it was only a twin (at most) at the time because I know it was years later that it became briefly a trio and then a quad. In the late 70s/early 80s on Sunday mornings I used to bicycle from the MSU area up Southern to White Station past the Paramount, then down White Station to Summer to the Fare 4, turn around in the Summer Drive-In entryway, then down Summer to Riverside Drive to Beale, make my “ritual circumnavigation of the Orpheum,” and then go back up Beale, Union, and Peabody to MSU; this took about 2 hours. Saw Angie Dickinson, Joan Prather, William Shatner, and Tom Skerritt in “Big Bad Mama” at the Summer. Also Stella Stevens and Stuart Whitman in “Las Vegas Lady” and James Ryan in a South African Martial-Arts movie called “Kill or Be Killed,” which was a cut above the usual “Chop-Opera.” Best wishes.
It just occurred to me that if there was a theater on Court Avenue in Overton Square, it may have been the original Playhouse on the Square before it moved to the reconfigured Memphian. That would make sense.
I saw a few soft-core pornos there while stationed at Mather AFB in 1968-69.
Point taken. I still believe the name change was a cheap trick, but I agree that this is not the most appropriate forum for the subject, so I apologize and will try to give it a rest. Meanwhile, this is a great site, and my most sincere compliments and appreciation to those who set it up. Now as for Memphis theaters—how about the Rosemary at Jackson and Watkins (replaced by a First Tennessee Bank which later also folded), the Princess on Main Street just North of the Malco/Orpheum, the Crosstown on Cleveland near North Parkway (Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall), the Luciann on Summer just East of Trezevant (Porno/Bowling Alley), the Suzor #2 on Jackson Avenue in “Hurt Village” where Elvis used to go when he lived in the Projects (closed but still standing as late as 1981), the Fare 4 (later 10) at Summer and White Station, the Strand right next to Loew’s State on South Main, the Southbrook multiplex in Southbrook mall, The Colonial (? could be wrong on the name) just North of Graceland on Elvis Presley Blvd/Highway 51 in Whitehaven, and the Southaven multiplex just across the line in Mississippi—plus a couple of other indoors and several drive-ins whose names even I can’t remember? So many theaters, so little time…. Best wishes, good luck and good counting to all. W.H. Wingo, Southwestern at Memphis/“Rhodes College” class of 1967.
The Mall of Memphis was just South of Loop 240 and Nonconnah Creek and just East of Getwell Road. It was built on the landfills of the 1930s and was very impressive, with two or three levels, a skating rink, the usual mix of retailers, and the theater complex. You could stand in the middle of the upper level promenade and feel the floor vibrate as people walked by—not very confidence-inspiring. The theater had an entrance separate from the mall, and was curiously sterile-looking. It always reminded me of the sets from “THX-1138.” The auditoriums were small and unpretentious. Saw Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, and Martin Short in “Innerspace” there in the late 1980s, while suffering from mild food poisoning—a memorable experience.
I went there a few times in the 1970s. One of our relief projectionists from the Guild ran it as an art theater for a while. It was a large strip-mall theater somewhat like the Paramount (described elsewhere on this site), but a little smaller and built later in the late 1960s/early 1970s suburban expansion. I saw several Laura Antonelli sex comedies, Romy Schneider and Rod Steiger in Claude Chabrol’s “Dirty Hands,” and most notably Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s “Aguirre-the Wrath of God” there. My impression was that it struggled for its entire existence, probably due to the obscure location, not being on any well-travelled main drag, and not being very well known. There were two or three other mall theaters in other outlying suburbs that eventually suffered the same fate.
In 1973-74 I had an apartment at 1390 Court Avenue in Memphis. 2105 Court would have been somewhat East of there. In Memphis, “Streets” run North and South, and “Avenues” East and West. Mapquest shows no listing for “2105 Court Street”; but “2105 Court Avenue” is right where I thought it would be, in the Overton Square area not far from the Memphian Theater which is on South Cooper just South of Overton Park. I seem to remember that there was a small theater of some kind in Overton Square at or very near this location but I don’t think I ever went there and don’t recall any details about it. If there was one it was probably a live theater or music venue rather than movies. Any multiplex there now is almost certainly a recent addition. The last time I was in Memphis was the summer of 1998, and then not in that area.
Saw the original “Star Wars” and “Alien” there in the late 1970s.
I got my start in show business as a doorman/ticket taker at the Guild from 1965-67 and again from 1973-74, rising eventually to the rank of “assistant manager.” Everybody said it had once been named the Ritz. It was already being run by the Art Theater Guild in 1963 when I first went there as a freshman at Southwestern at Memphis (AKA “Rhodes College” —gag—). It was a medium-long walk or a short car ride (if you had one) from the SW campus and it seemed that entire generations of SW students had worked there. The tradition was that when you were about to graduate, you picked your successor and personally introduced him/her to the manager, Bill Kendall—a real nice guy and an SW grad himself. Almost everyone so introduced was hired. I remember seeing—not necessarily in order—“The Pawnbroker” with Rod Steiger, highly controversial in early 1960s Memphis because a black woman went topless; “Phaedra” with Melina Mercouri, Raf Vallone, and Anthony Perkins; “Blow-Up” for 8 weeks followed by “Georgy Girl” for 7 weeks (almost all showings were sold out—we called it “The House the Redgraves Built”); Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water”; Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light”; Fellini’s “8-½”; and (later) Richard Burton and Jenny Agutter in “Equus”, among many, many others. By 1973 the Art Theater Guild had pulled out and Mr. Kendall was booking the theater himself. Eventually, this failed and it was taken over by a third party who obtained a beer license and started perhaps one of the first “cabaret” or more accurately, “bar” theaters. Although no longer working there by then, I went as a customer and saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show” first-run before it became a cult classic and while you could still hear the dialog (approximately 1976). Unfortunately, I had several beers before the show started and don’t remember much about it. I lost track of the Guild during my last few years in Memphis, 1977-83. It was closed for a while, but eventally was acquired by Circuit Playhouse, a division of Playhouse on the Square, and is now a live theater venue. From the seating chart their website, it appears that they have enlarged the stage and cut out or replaced lots of the original seats. When I worked there it was a large open auditorium with no balcony and seated about 600. The original small square screen from the 1930s was still there, but a larger screen had been installed in front of it, with the loss of several rows of seats. Starting about 1966 we showed “Underground Movies” at midnight on Saturdays for a few months. It was illegal in Memphis to start a public movie after midnight, so we turned the entire theater into a private club with a 25-cent lifetime membership fee. Ah, memories.
I went to the Plaza while a student at Southwestern in the early 1960s and again from 1973-1982. Saw Michael Caine (playing a cracker with a hilarious fake southern accent) and Hanoi Jane Fonda in “Hurry Sundown” there about 1966. Years later, saw Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” first-run after it was twinned. Plus many others, of course. The theater was surrounded on three sides by storefronts, and the side exits led through long (40 or 50 feet), dark passages between adjacent stores to the outside. My friend Bill Kendall from the Guild worked there in later years. He said that sometimes when a Cybill Shepherd movie would play, Cybill and her entourage would come down to the “cry room” and see it without having to mix with the rifraff. And you’re right about the curving walls—there was hardly a straight line in the entire place. Ah, memories.
The Memphian was the Memphian as far back as 1963 and until it was taken over by Playhouse on the Square. I first went there in late 1963 or early 64. Before that I can’t say—but the Guild on Poplar was the only one I ever heard of as having once been named the Ritz, as described above. The Memphian was just across Overton Park from the Southwestern Campus and I used to walk over there to the show and then walk back across the park to SW at Midnight or later. Probably just as well not to get stopped by the Cops doing that, even in the early 1960s—and don’t even think about it nowadays! Best wishes.