Comments from Backseater

Showing 1 - 25 of 106 comments

Backseater commented about Jupiter Theatre on Sep 17, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I think this is where I saw the classic exploitation film “Trader Hornee” (the ‘e’s are silent) in 1971. It was produced by Birmingham native schlockmeister David F. Friedman, who also appears in a cameo in the film.

The location fits with what I remember, slightly South and East of the University Hospital complex. The theater was very small, with only two employees: a ticket-taker/concessionaire and a manager/projectionist. It may have been a recycled “Jerry Lewis Cinema” which was common at the time.

Backseater commented about Lyric Theater on Sep 17, 2017 at 8:49 am

The Birmingham Rewound website shows an ad for “Johnny Be Good” with Alan Freed and Chuck Berry showing at the Lyric in March 1960. That’s the last one I could find.

I missed that one, but I did go to the Lyric a few times as a kid. Saw “Earth Versus the Flying Saucers,” “The Werewolf,” “The Land Unknown,” and a few others in that cultural niche. I think the last one I saw there was a spin-off clone of “Jason and the Argonauts,” with a bunch of Italian body-builders but without the Ray Harryhausen animation, probably in 1959.

The Strand closed in late 1962. Rewound shows an article on the closing in December and an ad for “Tower of London” in November. I remember seeing that one, Vincent Price as Richard III in the last show at the Strand. I probably didn’t appreciate the full significance of it all at the time.

I was in Bham from summer 1954 to fall 1963, from age 9 to 18. The Strand was named the Newmar when I arrived and changed back to the Strand later. I don’t remember the Galax, the Royal, or the original Newmar/Capitol/Alcazar at all.

Backseater commented about Strand Theater on Sep 14, 2017 at 9:17 pm

I believe I may have seen the last film shown at the Strand—“Tower of London” starring Vincent Price. I was only 17, but definitely remember Vincent chewing the scenery.

Backseater commented about Westwood Theatre on Aug 11, 2017 at 7:07 pm

I used to bicycle past this theater in the early 1990s when I lived in Westlake. It had apparently been closed for some time. Here’s a link to a youTube video of the demolition: But it’s called the “Hilliard Theater” in the video. RIP.

Backseater commented about Studio Theater on Feb 18, 2017 at 7:15 am

It opened 9 January 2017. Looks like a nice place.

Backseater commented about Texas Theater on Feb 15, 2017 at 3:22 pm

I was in Ballinger last Saturday night (11 Feb 2017) and was surprised to find the marquee all lit up. It was the first time I had ever seen that; and I’ve been walking and driving past it, sometimes at long intervals, since the early 1950s.

Apparently a local barbecue chef/entrepreneur has reopened it for lunch and dinner during the week and with country & western music on weekends. I went back on Sunday. It was closed, but the operator was there and was kind enough to give us a short tour of the place, the first time I had ever been in the building.

It’s very narrow inside, the same width as the front, and they’ve put in tables in place of the theater seats. The walls are the original natural local limestone masonry and the stage is quite large. The new screen goes up and down electrically, but I don’t know what they do about projection—probably digital. The balcony has been turned into a VIP lounge area, and the projection booth has been replaced by restrooms along a hallway right behind the upper front windows.

I took some pictures and will post them when I get a chance. Sorry I didn’t think to get any of the marquee and vertical illuminated. It was brilliant with lots of red and yellow.

Here’s a link to their website with copyright date 2017:

Another part of the same site. Some more photos, including a couple of interiors:

Some photos on Yelp:

Tripadvisor with a photo of the lit-up vertical; postings are from September 2016:

Backseater commented about Studio Theater on Dec 18, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Googling the Street Address 535 S. Highland brought up the following article from last May’s Memphis Business Journal:

The old Studio has been gutted and transformed (probably complete by now) into “The Bluff,” a Cajun restaurant and music hall. The post includes several pictures that brought back both fond and painful memories. They will still have a stage in the “Music Room”/auditorium, and the alley just outside the North exit door where I used to park my bike will become an outdoor patio.

I guess that’s progress, folks….

Backseater commented about Covina Twin Drive-In on Jun 1, 2016 at 5:59 am

The Vista Pointe apartment complex was later built on the site. I lived there From September 2001 to June 2003.

Backseater commented about Thunderbird Drive-In on May 14, 2016 at 10:09 am

Saw the original “Planet of the Apes” there in 1968. I was in USAF Navigator School at MAther AFB which was just down the road.

Backseater commented about Hillcrest Drive-In on Mar 31, 2016 at 7:38 pm

I definitely remember seeing “Night of the Lepus” and “Elvis on Tour” at the Hillcrest. Both were released in 1972 and I was in Korea until mid-November 72, so it was December 72 at the earliest or more likely early 73. So the Hillcrest was open at least until then.

“Lepus” was a sci-fi horror movie about giant rabbits terrorizing the countryside, with Rory Calhoun, Stuart Whitman, DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy from Star Trek) and Janet Leigh (!) The only giant rabbit movie I’m aware of. Obviously an underappreciated genre.

Backseater commented about Shell of the "old" Texas theater across the street. on Nov 26, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Across the street from the new Texas

Backseater commented about Studio Theater on Oct 30, 2015 at 8:39 pm

After going by the old Quartet this past Monday (26 Oct, details posted under the Quartet) I went down Highland and drove by the old Studio. The entrance is now boarded up with plywood: the theater entrance and box office are sealed off, but the two flanking storefront doors are not blocked.

Backseater commented about Malco's Quartet Cinema on Oct 28, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Visiting Memphis this past weekend, I went by the Quartet on Monday. The main entrance is now a sandwich shop and the auditorium exits on the South side of the building are now small storefronts.

Backseater commented about Temple Theatre on Oct 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm

We moved to Bham from Houston in the summer of 1954. I remember attending concerts (Birmingham Symphony??) and a road show of “Once upon a Mattress” with Imogene Coca at the Temple. Its movie days were long gone by that time but it was still in use.

Backseater commented about Starlite Drive-In on Oct 21, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Stan is right. I saw a revival of John Wayne’s “The Alamo” at the Starlite the night before I went into the AF: July 3, 1967, so it was open at least that late.

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 Whitehaven 2 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 Theater 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….)