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In the late 50s/early 60s my uncle, who was a veterinarian, had his office in the screen of the Fiesta. It was a long, narrow space—maybe 15 ft. by 50—but it had a certain style. He even knew the combination to the safe. There was also a back door in the screen that made it possible (occasionally) to sneak out into the theater area and watch the movie for free. I spent two summers with his family in Winters and Ballinger. We saw several movies at the Fiesta during this time, including Jerry Lewis in “Cinderfella” (ouch!) and Robert Mitchum in “Home from the Hill” and “Thunder Road.” The last time I went through Winters was in the late 80s/early 90s and the theater was being used to store oil drilling equipment during the “oil glut” (We could sure use an oil glut now!!) I think the screen was still intact at that time. A lot of Texas drive-ins were used like that in those days. There had also once been an indoor theater in “downtown” Winters, recognizable by the architechture—but it must have closed before my first visit in 1959; only vague memories remain. Best wishes, good luck, and good counting to all.
If I remember correctly, the Handy was on the South side of Park avenue just East of East Parkway in the area known as Orange Mound near the Fairgrounds and Libertyland amusement park (which Elvis would occasionally rent after hours). Central avenue is considerably to the north of there. Don’t have a Memphis map handy, but I once lived at 3549 Mynders avenue near Memphis State University just East of Highland, so 3475 Central should be just West of Highland, probably in an old mansion. That’s a good long way from Orange Mound.
The College was way out East on First Avenue North and a little out of my neighborhood. I saw occasional movies there in the 1960s and 70s, including Jane Fonda, Michel Piccoli, and Peter McEnery in “The Game is Over”—which resulted in a Playboy spread for Ms. Fonda (1966 or 67) as well as several entries in bad-movie directories. I remember the theater as a medium-sized neighborhood job, like the Normal (later Studio) theater near Memphis State University in Memphis, with a spacious lobby but no balcony and no striking features. The entrance on First Avenue North was very narrow, but the lobby opened up inside. I’m not sure where the “College” name came from. All the Bham-area colleges I’m familiar with are pretty far away.
I must have seen dozens if not hundreds of movies at the Homewood from 1954-1963. In the unfortunate era of segregation, the balcony was “Jim Crowed,” the only Birmingham area theater that I remember being so arranged. There was a separate entrance for Blacks, served by the same box office, leading to the balcony. In the picture linked elsewhere in this site, it’s the door on the far left. Black kids would come down the inside balcony stairs and ask us white kids to get them popcorn and stuff from the concession stand. As I recall fifty years later, we always obliged—or at least, I did. I saw many classics at the Homewood, including Frank Sinatra in the original “Ocean’s Eleven” (beware of imitations), Alec Guinness in the original “Ladykillers” (beware of imitations), Joan Collins in “Land of the Pharoahs” (1956), Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in “The Mummy” (1959), Gregory Peck in the Guns of Navarone" (1960), Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen in “The Magnificent Seven,” Grant Withers and William Shallert in “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” and John Agar in “The Mole People,” among many others. In the early 1960s it went under new management (?) and changed over to an “art” theater (i.e., Brigitte Bardot). It closed in 1963, at about the same time I went off to college in Memphis. When I returned to B'ham twenty years later, it had become a Schwinn Bicycle store, and later I actually bought a bicycle there (I guess what goes around comes around). Several of the original auditorium doors were still in service in different locations, and the exterior facade was only slightly changed, but no remnant of the balcony or the projection booth had survived. Ah, memories. I haven’t been back since 1994, and so cannot comment on more recent developments. Best wishes, good luck, and good counting to all.
I commuted from Covina to Duarte down Route 66 past the Azusa from 9/2001 to 6/2003. Also did a good deal of bicycling in the area and pedalled past it up close many times. Never saw a show there, although from other comments it apparently didn’t close until a few months after I arrived. As someone raised in the drive-in culture of the 1950s and 60s, I always had a nice warm feeling when I saw it. It was said to be the last standing drive-in in LA county as well as the last one on Route 66 West of Oklahoma. Ah, memories.
The main downtown Birmingham theaters in the 1950s-60s were the Melba on 3rd Avenue North (North of the L&N railroad tracks that is) and the Empire on 2nd Avenue N (or maybe it was the other way round), both near 21st St; the Newmar, later renamed the Strand, on 2nd Avenue N between 19th and 20th; the Ritz, on 2nd Avenue N between 17th and 18th; and the Alabama and the Lyric on opposite sides of 3rd Avenue N at 18th St. All were still open as late as 1960. The Lyric closed in the mid-60s, then later sacrificed its right-angle lobby on 3rd Avenue N, built a boxoffice in one of the fire escape doors at the rear of the auditorium on 18th St., and reopened briefly as the “Grand Bijou.” It folded for good in the late 1960s or thereabouts. I saw “Earth Versus the Flying Saucers” and “The Land Unknown” there in 1958. In the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Sally Field classic “Stay Hungry,” besides having Ms. Field’s only known nude scene, in the end credit sequence they have a bunch of body-builders posing on the ornate 18th St. fire escapes of the Lyric. I also remember seeing the original “King Kong,” the original “Mighty Joe Young,” “The Mouse that Roared,” and “The Amazing Colossal Man” among many others at the Newmar/Strand in the 50s, but it was gone without a trace by the mid-60s, replaced by a bank I believe. The Melba and the Empire lasted into the early 1980s. Both were still operating—or at least still standing—when I returned to B'ham in 1983, but were demolished shortly afterwards. The Ritz had gone a little earlier. In the mid 80s I got to tour the Alabama projection booth and the projectionist said some of the Melba/Empire equipment had been saved and taken to the Alabama. The Alabama and the Lyric remain, but another web site states that the Lyric has been completely gutted inside and is used to store equipment for the Alabama. It and the Newmar were by far the oldest, both being pretty run-down even in the 1950s, so that’s not surprising. In the unfortunate era of segregation, there were two or three African American theaters on 4th Avenue N near 16th St., including the Carver, the Famous, and (I think) the Frolic. Can’t tell you much about them. I think the Carver is still functioning as a multicultural performance/concert venue, and last I heard (a long time ago) the Famous had become a civil rights center, but they had kept the facade and the box office. There was also the Homewood Theater in the suburb of the same name, listed elsewhere on this site and now a Schwinn bicycle store. Since I lived in Homewood, I went there a lot as a kid—then later even bought a bicycle there. I guess what goes around comes around.
I never went there, but drove by just before it was demolished in the early-mid 1990s. The marquee said “Thanks for the Memories.”
I saw many movies at the Ritz in the 50’s and 60’s, including “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Dr. Zhivago,” and “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” (in Cinerama). It was torn down in the late 70’s or early 80’s, because by the time I came back to B'ham in 1983 it was gone. It was one block down and one block over from the Alabama, so on a Saturday afternoon you could sometimes see two movies, one at each place and grab some lunch at the Krystal (my God, did we really eat that stuff?) on the way between them. This saved on bus fare.
Never went there but drove by many times from 1973-1982. Occasionally it would be rejuvenated as a night club or something similar, but never seemed to last very long. Too bad.
I saw many movies at the State while attending Southwestern at Memphis (“Rhodes College”—gag) in the early 1960s. I partiularly remember Bob Hope in “Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number” (boy, did he!) and Jane Mansfield in “Primitive Love” (Primitive was right!) Then I graduated and went off to the AF, and when I returned to Mempho in 1973 it was gone. There was another theater next door called the Strand that played mostly porno in the late 60’s and it was gone too. Ah, memories.
Saw “The Day the World Ended” (a Roger Corman Cheapie) there in the mid-1950s. Glad to hear it’s still up and running.
I was in Cleveland form 1989-1995 and saw several movies at the Centrum. It was a most unusual architectural transformation from one to three screens. Saw “Sirens” there with Elle McPherson in 1994. Sorry to hear it’s gone down the tube at last.
I grew up in Birmingham, 1954-1963, and have many fond memories of Saturday aftenoons at the Alabama. It has to be seen to be believed.
I also saw 2001 there in the spring or summer of 1968, while stationed at Mather AFB. I remember when Kier Dullea was getting ready to “breathe vacuum” transferring from the pod to the ship, I was tempted to stand up and shout “I know you’re out there, Arthur C. Clarke!”
Went there a few times while stationed at Mather AFB in 1968. I remember two shows, a generic spy movie with Van Heflin and something strange with Tony Perkins.
Saw “The Fox” there in 1968 while stationed at Mather AFB.
I saw Shirley MacLaine in “Woman Times Seven” there while an officer cadet at Lackland AFB in 1967. Later saw “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” there while stationed at Randolph AFB in late 67 or early 68. A few years later it had gone to porno. The lobby defies description. Last time I was in town (about 1997) it was closed pending renovation.
I was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Base in Tucson in Feb-Mar 1969 and went to the Fox to see Alan Bates in “The Fixer”. Don’t remember much about it, but it was a grand old lady of the classic movie house era. Ah, memories.
Saw “Dr. Strangelove” there in 1963. Also later Sean Connery and Jean Seberg in “A Fine Madness.”
Went there once in 1963 to see a Tarzan movie with Gordon Scott and Sean Connery as the villain. Even then I remember it as pretty seedy.
I went to the Memphian many times while attending Southwestern at Memphis in the 1960s. Used to walk across Overton Park and then back to campus in the middle of the night. It was still the Memphian into the late-1970s.
I went to the Palace many times while attending Southwestern at Memphis (“Rhodes College”—gag—) 1963-67. Came back to Memphis in 1973 and went there a few times before it was demilished. Remember seeing wome Bruce Lee movies and other oriental “Blaxploitation” fare that enjoyed a brief popularity. Ah, memories.
My mother grew up in Ballinger and I went to the “old” Texas many times when visiting my grandparents as a kid. I particularly remember the Bowery Boys comedies and the previews of “TARANTULA” in 1956. The “old” Texas lasted into the early/mid-1960s and then burned. My uncle said, “They hired a good arsonist who didn’t get caught.” The sign was moved across the street to the other theater several years later. Ballinger also had a third theater on Main Street. I never saw it open, but the building is still recognizable as a theater from the projection booth windows above the entrance. It was a restaurant last time I was in town. According to my uncle, the three were never all open at the same time. There were also two drive-ins in Ballinger, the Horseshoe to the South and the Hillcrest on the Bronte highway. I saw “The Private Lives of Adam and Eve” with Mamie van Doren(!) at the Hillcrest in 1961, one of the first drive-in movies I actually drove myself to. A Miracle-Grow plant now occupies the site, but the original drive-in entrance is still there, with posters from the closing bill still in place (as of about 2002, at least). Ah, memories. To Seth: I have a cousin in Ballinger named Seth—could that be you?