Plaza Theatre

3402 Poplar Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38111

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Showing 1 - 25 of 37 comments

mmcneill on January 21, 2018 at 8:43 am

I worked there in 1973 when it reopened as a twin. Paper Moon and The Last of Shelia were the movies showing when it reopened. Ken Goderre was the manager.

JasonCManley on January 8, 2018 at 2:10 pm

I’m hoping someone can maybe help me confirm my foggy childhood memories. I believe I had my first movie going experiences at this theater. At least, I think it was either the, Poplar Plaza, Highland Quartet or the Ridgeway Four.

I’m fairly certain one of the first things I ever saw was PINOCCHIO and maybe several other Disney classics (SLEEPING BEAUTY and DUMBO, maybe) around say 1980 or 1981? I was all of 4-5 so it’s hard to say. I’m like 99% positive I also saw POPEYE (the Robert Altman film) around that same time too. I feel fairly certain that was at the Ridgeway, but may have been the Quartet.

Also, I’m fairly sure that I saw STAR WARS in 1982 during a re-release when I was 6 but I couldn’t say where. If I had to guess, I would say the Poplar Plaza. And I know for 99.9% I saw RETURN OF THE JEDI at the Quartet in 1983 on opening day.

Would love to know for certain if those films played there.

zebtheamerican on August 13, 2017 at 7:02 pm

From 1985 to 1987 my friends and I performed “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in front of the screen in theater 2. We had elaborate costumes, a fully realized light system and built amazing set pieces. We even found an old popcorn warmer in one of the rooms behind the screen that was the size and shape of Rocky’s tank that we painted up and made it look like the real thing. I had just moved to Memphis from Chicago where I had performed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter for many years. My first night there I was getting my make up and costume on in the men’s bathroom when I was approached by two young women who stormed in, Wendy and Caroline. It had been years since anyone had performed in full drag as Frank-N-Furter in Memphis and they were eager to put together a shadow cast, desiring to play as Janet and Magenta respectfully. The show had a low turn out at the time, mostly comprised of William Creswell and his friends. They became instrumental in putting together both a cast and audience lines. Actually, William (Allen back then) was quite funny, energetic and spontaneous. He could get an audience into the show unlike anyone I had seen before.

Within just a few short month’s of our revamping the show we began to sell out regularly and became the hot underground scene of Memphis. During the lead up to the 2 year anniversary of Rocky Horror at the Plaza we were interviewed by the local paper’s film critic, and myself and our Riff-Raff (David G.) were in full costume and make up on the cover of the Arts and Entertainment section. That show featured a live pre-show with comedy skits and musical numbers, and we had Rocky Horror fans in the audience from as far away as Germany who heard of what we were doing through the Rocky Horror International Fan Club.

About a year later I had a bit of a break down and Vince Astor was brought in to helm the show for a while. He did a great job while I recouped, I was grateful for his help.

Whatever one may think of Rocky Horror fans these people had a deep respect for the Plaza Theater, and just about all of them would regularly pay to see movies there all during the week. At times supporting it when business was slow. They were good people, and they were my friends. I miss them all dearly.

Oh, and by the way. I was also one of the theaters projectionist whom William wrote about and yes, the building was haunted back then. But I don’t believe in anything as silly as that now.

David Leadbetter, signing out.

vastor on April 28, 2013 at 6:56 am

New photo of the spire has been posted.

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 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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!!

lulamaecollins on April 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Anyone know who has the original plans?

TLSLOEWS on June 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Cool shots of the 1952 Boxoffice Joe V.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 25, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Now Showing at GCC’s PLAZA I and II “IF EVER I SEE YOU AGAIN” rated PG. in CINEMA II you have “THE GREEK TYCOON” rated R which is also playing at GCC’s RALEIGH SPRINGS IN Memphis.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 23, 2009 at 1:42 am

A rendering of the Plaza Theatre, along with a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Cianciolo and their two sons appeared in Boxoffice, April 5, 1952.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 5, 2009 at 11:15 pm

To expand on my comment above, I’ve found an item in Boxoffice of October 26, 1961, which said that Augustine Cianciolo had sold the lease on the Plaza Theatre to General Drive-In Corp. of Boston, the company which was later renamed General Cinema and became one of the leading builders of multiplex theaters.

Also, an interesting bit about Gus Cianciolo turns up in the March 19, 1955, issue of Boxoffice. When the Plaza Theatre received the print of “A Star is Born” missing 36 minutes the studio had cut because they thought the movie was too long, Gus asked the studio to provide his theater with the original, three hour and ten minute version, only to be told it was not going to be released. Most theater operators were happy to run truncated versions of movies as they could get in more showings and sell more tickets. Cianciolo must have been a real movie fan.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 5, 2009 at 9:55 pm

The architect of the Plaza Theatre was Everett D. Woods, who also designed the Poplar-Highland Plaza shopping center in which the theater was located. An article about the theater in the November 7, 1953, issue of Boxoffice also attributed the decoration of the Plaza Theatre to Woods. The shopping center and theater were built by developer L. Hall Jones, and the theater was first operated under lease by Augustine Cianciolo, operator of the Rosemary and Luciann theaters in Memphis.

William Creswell
William Creswell on September 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

The article mentioning the acroterion (the spire form the top of the marquee.) has been moved here:

View link

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on September 9, 2008 at 12:05 pm

The spire (acroterion – and I thought I was the only one who knew that word) was lifted off with a crane. A back-lit plastic star for Bookstar was mounted in its place. The stainless steel, back-lit letters on the vertical sign that spelled out PLAZA were also lifted off at the same time.

There are a pair of similarly-designed “finials” (acroteria) inside the auditorium (bookstore) – one on each side of the proscenium.

There was another acroterion on the department store. It was smaller and not as interesting. It too was removed at the same time.

William Creswell
William Creswell on September 7, 2008 at 11:53 am

the image is here:
View link
It’s about halfway down the page.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 7, 2008 at 11:48 am

Where is the online version?

William Creswell
William Creswell on September 7, 2008 at 11:39 am

No, but it does have a picture of it in it’s present location. Check the online version.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 7, 2008 at 4:19 am

Does the article say why the spire was removed?

William Creswell
William Creswell on September 6, 2008 at 10:51 pm

This snippet is from an article in “Memphis” magazine for Aug. 1 2008. It mentions the whereabouts of the spire that used to stand atop the Plaza:

The 1952 construction of Poplar Plaza was a milestone in our city’s history, for it was the first shopping center built away â€" and really far away at that â€" from downtown, which had always been Memphis' commercial center.

Lowenstein’s was the “anchor” store, but one of the top attractions there was the Plaza Theatre, a stunning Art Deco structure, all yellow brick and stainless-steel trim, the façade topped with a massive steel spiral (technically called an “accroterion”).

The Plaza, like so many single-screen theaters in America, faced tough times in the 1970s, added a second screen, and finally closed in 1989. Although there were fears the theater â€" and for that matter most of Poplar Plaza â€" would be demolished, new owners rescued the complex, and the theater was converted into the Bookstar that stands there today. The building exterior and interior are remarkably unchanged, but for one thing: That massive steel spire was removed

But it wasn’t lost. It was hauled a few blocks away to the University of Memphis, where it now rests in a nook in an exterior wall of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. With a little polish, it would look as good as new.