Comments from Backseater

Showing 1 - 25 of 91 comments

Backseater commented about The Strand in 1940 on Sep 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

1940, starring Cedrick Harwicke & Vincent Price (IMDB).

Backseater commented about The last marquee of the Strand Theatre on Sep 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm

IMDB lists both these films as released in 1958.

Backseater commented about Princess Theater on May 18, 2007 at 6:55 pm

I heard that about the Malco cashier too, from Bill Kendall. Sorry I don’t have more details. I do know that when I came back to Mempho in 1972, the Malco/Orpheum had bulletproof glass installed in the box office.

Backseater commented about Malco's Quartet Cinema on Feb 4, 2007 at 10:07 am

The Quartet opened while I was in the AF, 1967-72. I went there pretty regularly while at SW for post-BS courses (make of that what you will…) 73-74 and later at MSU which was only a few blocks down Highland Street. The building also held a huge liquor store, a Mexican restaurant, a video arcade, some other small retail stores, and on the second level some offices. The theater had no marquee, just a few poster cases beside the doors.
I’d list some of the movies I saw there but that would be tedious. I do remember that when “Young Frankenstein” played in 1974 or 75, the auditorium was literally packed to the walls. Sorry to hear it’s closed.

Backseater commented about Cobb Theater on Feb 4, 2007 at 9:48 am

This was one of the local neighborhood shopping center theaters like the Balmoral (q.v.) that got built just in time to be done in by cable TV and VCR tapes. I first saw it in 1972, so it must have been built not long before then. Saw “The Harrad Experiment” there, which with considerable FFN both male and female was very daring for the time. Lloyd T. Binford must have rolled over in his grave.

Later I saw some similar shows there, for example something set in a swamp with Claudia Jennings and many alligators, but my impression was that the theater never caught on and was eventually closed and converted to other uses or else demolished. It was only a few blocks north of the much larger Southbrook multiplex, which may also have been a factor in its demise.

Backseater commented about Ridgeway Cinema Grill on Feb 4, 2007 at 9:39 am

I went there many times too, up until I left Memphis in 1983. Later when back on a visit took my wife, stepson, mother, AND mother-in-law to see Robert DeNiro in “Casino” there, thinking it would be a good movie about Las Vegas—then Joe Peschi started beating people with baseball bats, and I wanted to hide under the seat. Stepson seemed to enjoy it, though…

The mural behind the concession stand (mentioned above) was a collage of about 200 famous movie star portraits, everybody from Marilyn Monroe to the three stooges, and was a local talking point. Otherwise I agree with other reviewers that it was typical bland, uninspired Malco.

Backseater commented about Northgate Theater on Feb 4, 2007 at 9:28 am

It was in the Northgate shopping center way up North of town on the way to Millington, and was already closed when I first saw it in 1973. Appeared to be a typical shopping center theater of the 50s-60s, like the Bellaire in Houston (q.v.) Sorry I can’t tell you more, but I didn’t get up to that part of town much.

Backseater commented about Alabama Theatre on Oct 9, 2006 at 12:28 pm

The following web site that I just discovered:

View link

is a real treasure-trove of Birmingham lore. A 3-part section covers the B'ham theater scene for almost the entire 20th century, with information on the transition from “legitimate” theater to vaudeville to silent movies to talkies to the inevitable decline and fall.

Many of the theaters changed names and identities through this period. For example: the Strand on 2nd Ave. N., built about 1914 and one of the first dedicated silent-film theaters in town, was right next to the Capitol which had previously been named the Alcazar. In the late 1940s the Capitol renamed itself the Newmar, then later took over the Strand and took the name with it. That’s why I remember it as the Newmar in the 1950s. Then in the early 1960s it was renamed back to the Strand—perhaps the old signage was still there under the plaster? Also, the Melba was on 2nd Ave. N. right next to the Comer (later City Federal) building; and the Empire was on 3rd Ave. N. It opened in 1927 as a silent film house, but they put in dressing rooms just in case these new-fangled “movies” didn’t catch on…. (See my previous post above.)

The site has excellent historical notes on the Alabama, Lyric, Ritz, Melba, Empire, and Temple theaters, including period photographs and statistics. By all means check it out if you are into old Birmingham theaters.

And thanks very much to Lost Memory for the link immediately above. It lead to some photos of the interior of the old Lyric, which I hadn’t seen in nearly 50 years. They are planning to restore it at a cost of $11 mill, and I’m glad—but they’ve got their work cut out for them.

Best wishes.

Backseater commented about Park Theatre on Dec 14, 2005 at 3:29 am

Update: the “satellite” feature of the map function now shows a vacant lot where the Park used to be. Don’t know when it was taken.

Backseater commented about Guild Theatre on Dec 3, 2005 at 6:06 pm

While a USAF Navigator trainee at Mather AFB in 1968 I went to the Guild several times. At that time it was a unit of the Art Theater Guild chain, for which I had worked while in college in Memphis, TN at the Guild and the Studio in Memphis (both q.v.) Eventually I introduced myself to the manager as a former ATG employee, and thereafter often got in for free. Saw Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in “Bedazzled,” a Brit modernization of the Faust tale, “with Raquel Welch as Lust” (beware of imitations); also Andy Warhol’s “The Chelsea Girls”—say WHAA'?? (And I thought Quantum Mechanics was incomprehensible….)

Backseater commented about 49'er Drive-In on Dec 3, 2005 at 5:55 pm

While stationed at Mather AFB in 1968 I went there to see Elke Sommer in “Daniella by Night” which nad been heavily touted in PLAYBOY magazine a year or so previously. They must have had he cut version—it certainly didn’t do anything for me.

Backseater commented about Nugget Theaters on Dec 3, 2005 at 5:51 pm

Saw James Stewart and Kim Novak in Alfred Hackneydplot’s “Vertigo” there while taking a summer course at Dartmouth Medical School in 1984. Don’t remember much about the theater, but there was a restaurant not far away that had 50 different kinds of pizza in the evenings and 50 different kinds of omelettes in the mornings. A true entrepreneurial inspiration…

Backseater commented about Palace Cinema on Nov 29, 2005 at 6:40 pm

I went to the Fare 4 many times from 1973 to 1983. It was expanded after I left Mempho in 83. They usually had a soft-core porn feature on at least one screen in those days—I remember David Friedman’s “The Erotic Adventures of Zorro,” Kristine DeBell in Bill Osco’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and Angel Tompkins and Jay “Dennis the Menace” North (!) in “Teacher.” The last film I saw there was about 1997 after it became a 10-plex: John “Revolting” Travolta, Nicholas Cage, John Bloom (Joe Bob Briggs), and Margaret Cho (!) in “Face-Off.” Took my wife, stepson, and mother-in-law to that one—you can tell I haven’t wasted MY life….

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.)