Famous Theatre

1538 Marigny Street,
New Orleans, LA 70117

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Cajundweeb on December 21, 2014 at 8:05 pm

For a time in the 1980s, this was a disco.

waltercolbert2 on July 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm

what radio station brodcast @ the famous diso in the 1980’s ?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm

From Boxoffice ,June 1992.The Famous Theatre burned down March 15.A case of suspected Arson.Rene Brunet ran it until 1972 when it was sold and became the FAMOUS DISCO, The building had been vacant since 1991.

ArthurHardy on June 11, 2010 at 12:30 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 May 25, 2010 at 6:26 pm

It was popular with locals with low admission prices even for the 70’s.

TLSLOEWS on May 25, 2010 at 6:15 pm

How Famous was the FAMOUS THEATRE?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 25, 2010 at 2:41 pm

The Famous Theatre was playing “GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND” rated G plus a second hit “BLOOD ON THE SUN” admission $1.00 and fifty cents for kids.

SpainSt on March 29, 2009 at 8:55 am

Back in the sixties, when we lived in the neighborhood, my brother and I and all of our cousins would walk to the Famous Theater on a Saturday, armed with six RC Cola bottle caps each, to get into the Saturday Matinee for free. Not only did the bottle caps pay our way in, but we got a ticket as we entered for the prize drawing during intermission! My ticket was picked once, and I was able to go up onto the stage and choose my prize: a large inflated rubber ball. We loved that theater, and I cried when it was finally torn down. Whenever I pass that ugly corner now, I imagine the Famous still standing there. Thank you so much for adding the history here.

happy2155 on November 2, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Yes, your description was very accurate. I’m sure your memories of the Famous are probably better than mine. My grandfather died on my 8th birthday, but the Famous was a hugh part of our lives — it was the family business. I was very happy to read that it still held such wonderful memories for you. My grandfather loved it very much. Thank you for writing such a wonderful piece on it. It brought back a lot of memories for me.

jazzland on November 2, 2007 at 5:46 am


I hope my description of your grandfather’s theatre is pretty accurate. I really liked going there. My grandmother won a dance contest there in the 20’s doing the Charleston and the Big Apple.

happy2155 on August 26, 2007 at 3:57 pm

The Famous Theater was built by my grandfather, Ferdinand Alsina. He originally operated a silent movie house, but built the larger motion picture theater over it, never shutting down during construction, The reason the screen was behind you as you entered from the lobby was a construction necessity in order to achieve that goal. It also had a crying room where mothers with crying babies could sit in a room facing the screen, behind a glass wall, and listen to the movie through earphones. One of the large framed posters in the lobby was actually a doorway to a stairway that led down to my grandfather’s office. I remember there was an intercom in there where you could hear what was being said in the restrooms. My grandfather said this was in case anyone needed assistance.

There were two exit doors that led to the back alley. During the depression, kids who couldn’t afford to go to the Saturday matinee would sneak in through those doors after the reels started. When my grandfather found out about it, he made sure the doors were left partially open in order to facilitate the “sneaking in.” The story goes that eventually there were more kids lined up in the alley than out front.

My family sold The Famous when my grandfather passed away in 1955.

jazzland on January 12, 2007 at 11:37 am

The Interior of the Famous was by no means fabulous. The lobby ran the width of the building and faced Marigny Street. The lobby was divided into three sections- a square shaped area at both ends with a narrow area containing the concession stand in the middle. The theatre was entered at the northern (Claiborne Avenue) end. A part of this area was given over to the box office behind which was the public telephone encased in a plastic sea shell surround that glowed with pink light. The remaining walls in this area had a high wainscot of diamond tufted burgundy leather with brass nail heads. At the top of the wainscot was pink cove lighting which illuminated the deep blue walls above. Two pairs of tufted leather doors were located on the west wall which was the entry to the auditorium. On the south wall was a small door which led to a concession storage area under the stage. The concession area was arranged as follows: candy/service counter, popcorn machine, soda dispenser and punch fountain, hotdog cooker, candy service counter. I found the popcorn machine and hotdog cooker particularly fascinating when the movie was too scary. The ceiling concession stand was lowered and had cove lighting above that flooded the higher accordion-pleated wall with pink, yellow, blue and green fluorescent light. Across from the concession stand were poster display cases in niches formed by bricking up some of the original door openings. The floor was broken tile terrazzo. The south end of the lobby was similar to that described above except that it had two porcelain drinking fountains -one pink, one pale blue – mounted to a shiny black tile wall. Behind this wall was a stair up to the ladies lounge and restroom. This was the nicest restroom in the building, and the lounge was located behind the windows that faced Marigny Street.

The auditorium of the Famous was interesting if only for its configuration. When you entered the auditorium the audience faced you. From this point you walked up to your seats with the stage behind you. I remember the seating having three aisles – one at each side wall and one at the center. You looked at the high front of the balcony as you entered. It was so high that the projection booth was located below the balcony seats. The seats in the front few rows of the theatre were painted wood; the remainder had red upholstery. The stage of the famous was high, high enough that people entering the theatre would not block your view. The stage front was covered in tufted burgundy leather to match the lobby. There was no proscenium arch to speak of, but the stage opening was covered by a gold contour curtain lighted by colored footlights. At either side of the stage openings were walls with a simple panel design and carved plaster masks of comedy and tragedy which I found frightening as a child. The remaining wall surfaces of the auditorium were covered in acoustic tile laid in a running bond pattern and painted deep blue. Large art deco wall sconces consisting of tiered milk glass half cylinders with thin brass accents were spaced along the side walls and continued under the balcony. The wall sconces had red, yellow and green light bulbs in them which produced a rainbow effect. The ceiling was pressed metal painted gold with large circular fluorescent house lights. The balcony soffit was painted plaster with red cove lighting. The floor was wood with carpeted aisles. The auditorium was always freezing cold no matter what the weather was outside

At the rear of the auditorium was one of the strangest men’s rooms ever constructed. It was built on a set of stairs that went below grade. As you entered on the right side you were immediately faced with about four steps descending to a small landing where the lavatory was located. Turning left the landing got wider. A small toilet stall was located at this point. Turning right and then left again there were more stairs descending to the largest expanse of straight wall in the room. It had an exposed perforated galvanized pipe at the top from which water cascaded down the wall to the trench drain in the floor. All surfaces were finished with black and white ceramic mosaic tile.

I cannot speak of the balcony area because I was never up there. I can say that the balcony was accessed from a separate entrance at the rear of the theatre facing Claiborne Avenue. This entry opened directly onto a stair that lead to the balcony. The men’s room described above was located beneath these stairs. When I was very young, I asked my parents about the balcony. They said that only black people sat up there and cautioned me never to sit below the balcony rail because people would spill drinks and popcorn on us.

Over the period when I attended the theatre there were a few changes. In the mid-sixties the seating as well as the aisle arrangement was changed. New seats, possibly used seats from the downtown Joy Theatre, were installed. There was one bank of seats with about seven seats in each row located along the side walls, an aisle, and a center bank with about fourteen seats per row. A cross aisle was located in each of the side banks of seats about two thirds of the distance from then screen. We always sat in the last row before the cross aisle on the right side of the theatre. This was my dad’s favorite spot. Another renovation was more extensive. The art deco wall sconces were removed and long troughs were constructed about ten feet up the walls. Red drapery was installed which covered the walls from the ceiling and ended in the trough. Pink fluorescent lighting in the trough made the bottom edge of the drapery glow and air conditioning made the drapes ripple like waves. I found this particularly entertaining when I wasn’t interested in the double-feature. The men’s room was also renovated at this time with new fixtures and new beige and white ceramic mosaic tile. The last tow rows of seats were removed and a wood and glass crying room was constructed. At the south end of the lobby the poster cases were removed and a glass display case was constructed containing gifts that could be redeemed based on the number of times you attended the theatre. The final renovation that I remember involved the construction of new restrooms at the south end of the lobby. At this time the older restrooms were closed.

The last time I went to the Famous was in the early seventies. My dad had finally broken down and purchased two window units to air condition the house. The Famous was no longer an escape form the New Orleans weather and the movies weren’t as good. The Famous was great for a kid growing up and I developed a life-long love of the movies from going there. My experiences at that neighborhood theatre have had a major impact on my life.

jazzland on January 5, 2007 at 11:59 am

The Famous Theatre was opened in 1927 and replaced an earlier theatre on the site.l In fact, the new Famous was built around and enclosing the existing theatre. Legend has it that the existing theatre was demolished overnight and the new Famous opened the following day allowing for almost continuous performances. The theatre exterior was designed in the spanish revival style. It was essentially a textured stucco rectangular building. There was a raised section of the building over the balcony near the Elysian Fields side of building. The front facade consisted of two square towers, one at each end; a center section with casement windows,a central stucco panel outlined with stud lights containing the theatre name, and arched head doors at the ground level sheltered by a spanish tile roof. The towers were punctuated with arched head, divided lite casment windows near the top and crowned with spanish tile hip roofs with decorative rafter tails. The towers also had simple retangular plaster panels and stud lights. My memories are from the early 1960’s. By this time, the stud lighting was no longer in use and neon outlined the theatre name. A large vertical neon sign was located at the corner of Marigny Street and Claiborne Avenue until September of 1965 when it was damaged by Hurricane Betsy. A horizontal red neon sign procaliming “Famous Theatre” was located atop the roof facing Elysian Fields Avenue and during the 1960’s additional neon was added to the tops of the towers and to the Caliborne Avenue facade. There was no marquee. Poster cases were located at the first floor. The box office was located at the base of the tower at the intersection of Marigny and Claiborne. It was staffed by an ancient lady and young girls from the neighborhood and had an old fashioned change machine which delivered coins via a series of ornate terraced chutes.

jazzland on January 25, 2006 at 2:17 pm

The Famous Theatre was a “backward theatre”. I went there about twice a week for the first twelve years of my life. I saw double features during the week and the kiddie matinee on Saturdays – lots of Elvis and American International pictures accompanied by 45 minutes of Warner Brothers cartoons. I wish I could go back.