Plaza Theatre

3402 Poplar Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38111

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Plaza Theater, Memphis, Tn. c.1989

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The Plaza Theatre was located in Poplar Plaza shopping center at Poplar Avenue and Highland Street. It was Memphis' first major shopping center and Augustine Cianciolo took a major gamble by constructing a large neighbourhood theatre.

The Plaza Theatre was opened in 1952 and all seating was on a single level. The exception was two enclosed rooms on either side of the projection booth, party and cry rooms respectively. It was very successful during its many years as a single screen theatre, even after General Cinema purchased its lease in 1961. In its last years it was a twin. The Plaza Theatre was closed in 1987.

Bookstar renovated and occupied the space, keeping the front entrance marquee. The curving metal spire on the front of the building was removed and is now on display in a sheltered niche in a courtyard at the University of Memphis. In 2012, it was converted into a restaurant. The interior was completely gutted but the marquee and front window remain.

Contributed by AC, Vincent Astor

Recent comments (view all 36 comments) on May 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Bookstar is gone & the building is vacant. Here’s a photo from April 2011:

lulamaecollins on May 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I’d love to turn it back into a theatre, but a dinner theatre (supper club) and the cafe section of the old Bookstar could be the lounge!! All the retro stuff is still there, from what I hear, and there’s room for a stage. Look at the jobs we could create!!

vastor on October 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Good news and bad news. The building is going to become a spa for Gould’s, a beauty parlor which has been at Poplar Plaza for many years. The bad news is that all the remaining decor has been gutted. Couldn’t see the restrooms but the curved lobby which Bookstar retained is gone. The interior was much handsomer after Bookstar moved in than it ever was before (it was pretty plain as were most neighborhood theatres) but all of that is also gone.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

The 1952 Boxoffice Magazine item about the Plaza Theater cited in my earlier comment is now located at this link.

jtom on November 17, 2011 at 8:45 am

I was the Assistant Manager of the Plaza Cinema under Ken Goderre’s Manager-ship.About 1964-65.Used to lunch with Gus Cianciolo at Pete and Sam’s Any contacts out there? Photos or …

J Tom Miller

cjburke on February 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Such a shame. My father worked across the street, and knew the manager of the Plaza Theater. There would be times when Elvis Presley rented out the whole theater so he could bring his people in to see a movie, and he’d ask the manager if he had some folks he trusted not to make a fuss, who could join them there. Dad saw a half dozen or so movies with Elvis that way.

Lebergeron on September 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Gould’s took over the area that was the Starbuck’s Cafe in Bookstar, the theatre itself is now getting ready for the grand opening of Osaka Japan restaurant.

vastor on October 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

This just in. Went by to look at Osaka Bistro today. No trace of the interior of the Plaza remains but the restaurant is very elaborate and beautiful. Haven’t eaten there yet. The canopy and front window remain intact with the “Osaka” letters where the vertical letters always have been. See the new exterior photos.

vastor on April 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Was just over at the University of Memphis yesterday wondering what happened to the acroterion (spire). It never moved at all, it is in a protected niche in a courtyard with the new FedEx Institute building in front. It once faced a yard which was used for the new building and created the courtyard. It is approximately 10 feet high and in very good condition. A new photo when I get it. An image that I will always have in my mind is the contour outlined with a single stroke of white neon which looked like it was hanging in the dark.

vastor on April 28, 2013 at 6:56 am

New photo of the spire has been posted.

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