Coliseum Theatre

1233 Coliseum Street,
New Orleans, LA 70130

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Coliseum Theatre

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The Coliseum Theatre opened in 1915, located on Coliseum Street at Erato Street. The theater seated 600 as of 1945 according to the Film Daily Yearbook from that year, though it originally seated over 1,000. The Coliseum Theatre was remodeled in around 1946, to the plans of architect Jack Corgan.

It was closed in 1976, and later was used for a movie production company.

A scene from the 1994 film version of Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire” where Louis watches the movie “Tequila Sunrise” was shot at the Coliseum Theatre.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

joysmovies on January 15, 2008 at 6:13 pm

As a child in the late 60’s, I was a regular patron of the Coliseum. This theatre had an atmosphere like no other I’ve ever been to. The inside of the theatre had the most beautiful neon fixtures on the celling that were deep blue & green, and remained lit while the movie was on. There was also cove neon lighting along the side walls, that could be turned on as blue, or red. This theatre was quite fancy in it’s day, and had probably the largest screen of any indoor theatre, except for the Cinerama.
There was also a blue neon clock that read HARTFORD INSURANCE, 800 HOWARD AVE. which remained on during the film.
Above, it states that seating was 600 in 1945, but in 1949, a balcony was added, making a total of 1100 seats.
The theatre was operated by the Lazarus family from 1919 until the early 60’s when it was operated by United Theatres for a short time.
At the time I attended, the business was owned and operated by Alfred J. Viola, a veteran theatre manager, and this theatre was truly one of a dying breed. Mr. Viola told me that United was going to close the Coliseum, and he announced that he was going to lease it. The GM of United told him that he wouldn’t last for a year. He remained open until 1976, when the theatre was sold.
This theatre was Al Viola’s baby. It was a true mom & pop neighborhood theatre, featuring double features, 3 program changes each week, cartoons, and occasionally old tyme serials!
Mr. Viola was the type of guy that would allow a kid short of money to have a piece of candy. As a regular customer, I got to know him & Mrs Sophie Morales, who worked the concession 7 nights a week for as long as I can remember.
I became a projectionist, and in October of 1975, I was hired at the Coliseum, and remained there until it closed on April 20, 1976.
Til the day it closed in 1976, Al Viola was proud that he was able to keep the admission prices the lowest in the city. Adults 75c, Children 35c. This was when first run theatres were charging $3.25.
Concessions were also the lowest prices in town…featuring 10c popcorn til the day it closed.
About 6 months after the Coliseum closed, Mr. Viola had a stroke, and then in 1980, he died of another stroke. We remained close friends until he passed.
Sadly, on Christmas day 2007, Joe Grillot, Al Viola’s nephew, who had the same love for theatre & movies as his uncle, passed away at age 62.
The Coliseum was one of my all time favorite theatres, and I am so sad that it is gone now.

joysmovies on January 17, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Here is a photo of the Coliseum Theatre from 1975, showing a classic double feature. Photo by Joe Grillot.

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joysmovies on January 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Here is a photo of Al Viola in front of the Coliseum box-office in the 70’s pointing to his low admission prices.
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joysmovies on January 21, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Here’s some more Coliseum photos:
The projection booth, taken in 1975 while I was working there:
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and the neon celling light fixtures that had deep blue & green neon:
View link

joysmovies on January 24, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Here’s an ad for a movie playing at the Coliseum and other theatres in 1963:
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BigEasyBarry on August 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Drive-in-mike and I spent many a fun night in this old movie house. I remember when we did some work for our school principle, he took us to the Coliseum to see a double feature of The Hellfighters and Anne of a Thousand Days.(Wasn’t that an odd pairing?)

ArthurHardy on June 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Announcing a book about New Orleans Movie Theaters

The History of the Neighborhood Theaters in New Orleans
is being written by 89-year-old Rene Brunet, the dean of the motion picture industry in Louisiana, and New Orleans historian and preservationist Jack Stewart. The 160-page,coffee table book will be released in November and is being published by Arthur Hardy Enterprises, Inc. Attention will be focused on 50 major neighborhood and downtown theaters, culled from a list of nearly 250 that have dotted the cityâ€\s landscape since the first “nickelodeon” opened in 1896 at 626 Canal Street. The book will be divided by neighborhoods and will open with a map and a narrative about each area. Each major theater will feature “then and now” photographs, historic information, and a short series of quotes from famous New Orleanians and from regular citizens who will share their recollections.
We are trying to acquire memorabilia and additional photos of this theater for this publication. (deadline July 1.) You will be credited in the book and receive a free autographed copy if we publish the picture that you supply. Please contact Arthur Hardy at or call 504-913-1563 if you can help.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Great Story,Drive-in Mike about a great theatre manager and owner.

CSWalczak on September 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

A picture of the Coliseum taken in what looks like light snow (rare for the Big Easy); it was also obviously taken much later than 1915: View link

danielmorales on January 27, 2011 at 8:26 am

Drive-in Mike and Others – I’m a creative writing student at the University of New Orleans and am putting together a story about the Coliseum Theatre. I was born in New Orleans but was too young to ever have experienced the theatre itself. I did a walking project in high school and came across Coliseum Square and the Theatre and was struck by the architecture and the whole neighborhood really – I grew up mostly Uptown.

I’d love to talk with anyone who knows more than me or with anyone who is willing to share photos for my project. I have several good photos I took in 2002 when I did a second walking project in college, but I have no photos of the inside of the building.

Any help would be much appreciated. Please contact me (Daniel Morales) at rupansansei at gmail dot com.

Thanks for all the great stories…it really makes the Theatre seem like a real gem.

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