Park Theatre

3527 Park Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38111

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Park Theatre

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The Park Theatre was opened by Ruben Lester between 1945 and 1949 (sources disagree). It was always operated as an independent neighbourhood theatre with Lester actually living in an apartment he constructed ‘over the store’. Many blockbuster movies played at this relatively small theatre and it was Memphis ‘Sensurround’ theatre.

After closing, it became a recording studio. In 2003 it disappeared. Its long-time neighbour Walgreen’s purchased the property to expand their store.

Contributed by Scott, Vincent Astor

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

cinema2
cinema2 on January 17, 2006 at 5:58 pm

The Park Theater was still in operation into the 80’s. It was one of the last larger single auditoriums in the Memphis area, and possibly THE last one. A great building, too. After it closed it was used for quite a few years by a video production company. They used part of the street address (“35 Park”) as the production company name. I was surprised that the building finally got taken down by the wrecking ball, I suppose in the late 90’s. I believe it has been replaced by yet another national corner pharamcy. A pity, this one. Memphis, like other cities, isn’t particularly protective of its architecture.

PineCabn
PineCabn on April 25, 2006 at 7:07 am

I remember standing in long lines to see “Airport” at the Park. I also saw “Jaws”, “Altered States”, “Brainstorm”, and “The Empire Strikes Back” which kept breaking because of a mis-aligned 70mm gate. The management gladly invited me back to see the movie once the problem was repaired. I also seem to remember a censorship controversy for “Love Story” when it played there.

gspragin
gspragin on July 23, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Count me in for “Altered States” and “Watership Down” during my Memphis State University days.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm

PLaying First run at THE PARK theatre CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Shows at 7:15 and 9:40 .I find this odd only two shows at a theatre in a city the size of Memphis.Usually cities that size play matinees and evening shows. Not here. two shows!

gannonwolf
gannonwolf on September 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm

In 1964 I started working at the Park, the number one grossing theatre in the entire south. I was eleven when my father -John Gannon – was appointed general manager. Prior to that it was a neighborhood theatre showing second run movies like..The Blob. The first great movie to show at The Park was Cat Ballou and what followed was one great movie after another. Things looked alot different at the corner of Park and Highland than today. Needless to say working at the Park from 11 to 17 years of age was an adventure that included the greatest days of my life. To The Park theatre an independent theatre that was the number one grossing theatre in the entire south.
Michael Gannon

ghsong
ghsong on November 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm

i recall standing in line for two hours to get tickets to see ‘jaws'in 1975….the park got the exclusive on movies back then.i recall people brought lawn chairs to wait in line…and less that ten yrs later it was gone.

cjburke
cjburke on February 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

I remember seeing Earthquake in “Sensaround!” and wondering if the building could survive repeated showings. I heard later that they had to close down for a short time because of the vibrations. I also remember my brother and his friend taking me with them to see Serpico – first time I remember hearing that many swear words in a movie, including some I’d never heard before.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm

This page of a web site called Elvis Presley Pedia list the opening of the Park Theatre as an event of 1940. No source is cited, but the site lists a few other theaters by opening year and it appears to be accurate in those cases.

TheParkRocked
TheParkRocked on May 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I worked at The Park in 1980-1981. It was the a great place to work.The first movie I saw there was Walking Tall, starring Joe Don Baker,in 1973. The Park got many great movies because it was so large. If I remember correctly it had 849 seats, making it the largest theater in Tennessee. It also had a larger screen than any other theater in Tennessee, was the first Tennessee theater to get surround sound, and the first Tennessee theater to use the 70mm platter system.) Most theaters, at that time, sat around 250. Malco Quartet was the closest thing to a multiplex in Memphis at the time and they weren’t about to devote 3 or 4 screens to one movie in order to compete.

The cool thing about the platter system was that we would have to splice the reels together and then run the movie to make sure everything was correct. We would run it after we closed and all our friends would come to watch the movie and party. Little did the customers know that as soon as the final showing of the night was seated, we loaded up the ice machine with beer. When the movie let out, the party began.

There was an apartment upstairs which was used for storage. We organized the storage in one of the bedrooms, and with some hand-me down furniture, turned the rest of the apartment into our personal party pad. For a time, there were even some “plants” growing beneath the screen stage. Hot looking, unescorted girls rarely had to pay for snacks and we got a few phone numbers and dates out of it. We made it all work out in inventory.

This was during the “Empire Strikes Back” and “Altered States” era,(among other flicks.) Man, I remember laying down to go to sleep and hearing the theme from Empire in my head as I was drifting off. Five showings a day Sunday – Thursday, and six on Friday and Saturday for a six month exclusive and I worked just about every one of them.

Ah, to be young again…..Those were the days!

zzralph
zzralph on December 12, 2012 at 11:48 am

Saw “Battlestar Galactia” the movie in Sensaround, but IMDB does not list the movie. Also saw “Earthquake” & “Rollercoaster” with Sensaround.

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