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I am from Tennessee, but was on a family vacation when we saw “Starman” here in 1984. The venue made a huge impression on me! I am glad to find reference to it here.
This very small theater was part of a strip mall that likely opened in the mid-1970s. It was the only theater for miles around and served a rural area outside of Oak Ridge, TN. It lasted until the early 1990s, sat empty for years, and is now some kind of office space.
The best thing about this cinema was that the lobby walls were covered in movie posters – they would paste them up collage-style, overlapping one another. It made for a really memorable lobby experience.
I can recall seeing a lot of cheesy low-budget late-80s fare there, and I have a photo from my 11th birthday of my friends & I going to see “Return of the Jedi” in 1983. The plate glass windows were painted over with scenes from the film for that occasion.
I believe it had three screens at one point. I saw “Return of the Living Dead” here in 1985. The space is now a Knoxville Area Rescue Mission thrift store.
I have a vivid and terrifying memory of seeing “Piranha” outdoors here in 1978. The Drive-In was open as late as 1987, as a bunch of us hormonal teens went to see “The Lost Boys” there all squeezed together in my buddy’s car.
As for the indoor theater, I can clearly recall the decorative fountain inside the lobby. I saw “Star Wars” here in 1977 – a very vivid memory! The only other movies I remember seeing here were “RoboCop” and “The Fly” which should tell you about when it finally closed. It is a WalMart now, more’s the pity.
Knoxville is lucky to have this excellent arthouse in operation.
@ TNTIM: Oh, it kills me to see those! Such a beautiful venue to be demolished in favor of a glass-slab office!
@ Mike: Wow! The footprint is still there, that’s amazing!
I have fond memories of this theater. I remember seeing “Beetlejuice” here on my 16th birthday. I saw “Ishtar” here with my Mom the night that a huge storm blew through Knoxville and did a lot of damage to signs all along Kingston Pike. The storm was so bad people were leaving during the film to keep an eye on the situation through the lobby’s huge plate-glass windows.
Both films I just mentioned were shown in the big main auditorium whose footprint is on the right. How do I remember this sutff??
At the time this opened it was the fanciest theater in town, with the very best in late-80s swank: marble floors, green “velvet” seats, brass sconces, grand curtains over the screens, etc. Not sure when it opened, but I distinctly recall seeing 1988’s “Torch Song Trilogy” there.
@ Will Dunklin: I agree, Taste of Thai is one of Knoxville’s best restaurants.
I can recall seeing Quest for Fire, Iceman, The Right Stuff and Ghostbusters at this venue. The “rocking chairs” were always a thrill for us kids. Very odd to see it turned into a home decor store now! Right across the street is the Capri Terrace (aka Terrace Tap House) which is a Knoxville landmark, or should be.
I can recall seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” here.
@Mike, you’re right, Knoxville is a big college town and so most of our theater employees only stay a few years.
It bears mentioning that during the late 90s / early 2000s there was a resident theatre company operating out of the Bijou, which performed such shows as Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Ain’t Misbehavin', etc. It was a thrill to perform on this historic stage which has seen luminaries such as the Marx Brothers, Lily Pons, JP Sousa, Will Rodgers and more!
The Center Theater was built during the Manhattan Project, as part of the “Townsite” shopping center now known as Jackson Square. The theater showed films and hosted live shows. It is now the Oak Ridge Community Playhouse and, having hosted plays since 1943, is the oldest continually-operating communty theaters in the SouthEast. (www.orplayhouse.com)
Following is a link to the Flickr page for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, showing the Center Theater exterior as well as the Grove, Jefferson and Ridge Theaters, all built by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Manhattan Project, 1942-1945. Also, the Skyway Drive-In, circa 1960s.
Following is a link to the Flickr page for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, showing the Grove, Center, Jefferson and Ridge Theaters in Oak Ridge, all built by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Manhattan Project, 1942-1945. Also, the Skyway Drive-In, circa 1960s.
The Ridge was a double – I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” there in 1980 while my Mom went to see “The Blue Lagoon.” I do remember the Grove 1-2-3, so perhaps the reference to a Ridge 1-2-3 is a mis-print. The Ridge was definitely closed before 1993 and is now retail/commercial space on Broadway Street in Oak Ridge. It never was on Main.
Following is a link to the Flickr page for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, showing the Ridge (with two different marquees) Grove, Center and Jefferson Theaters in Oak Ridge, all built by the Army Corps of Engineers for the Manhattan Project, 1942-1945. Also, the Skyway Drive-In, circa 1960s.
The Grove Theater was built during the Manhattan Project, which founded Oak Ridge in the first place. It was converted into a three-screen cinema after the war, and remained that way until a major renovation turned it into a crappy generic multi-plex in the 1980s. Extensively remodeled, it is now the home of High Places Church in one auditorium. The other two original auditoriums have been combined into a single space and is used as a venue for concerts and live events.