Evergreen Theatre

1705 Poplar Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38104

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West exit from auditorium

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the 900-seat Ritz Theatre in 1927, it was part of the Bijou circuit. The oldest known photograph of the Ritz Theatre was published in 1930. The theatre had a canopy, but no marquee.

The marquee seen in later photographs was the second display. Around 1964, it was acquired by the Art Theatre Guild group, and renamed Guild Theatre. This marquee survived through the Guild Theatre and later Movie House on Poplar days. It was removed due to structural problems when the theatre became the Evergreen Movie Theatre, and was replaced with a flat signboard.

When Circuit Playhouse bought the building the flat signboard was removed and a cloth canopy sign was added. This same sign now reads ‘Evergreen’. The theatre is owned by Circuit Playhouse Inc., and is used as part of the theatre school and is available for rentals. Seating is now around 100 and the building is in good shape and in regular use, retaining many of its architectural features, inside and out.

Contributed by Jack Coursey, Vincent Astor

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

gspragin
gspragin on November 4, 2006 at 2:38 pm

Here’s a photo of the
Circuit Playhouse formerly the Guild and the Ritz. I remember seeing a movie there when I was in high school in the 1970s.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on February 15, 2010 at 1:44 am

It should now be listed as the Evergreen Theater according to this article View link

vastor
vastor on July 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

One neglected story about the Guild incarnation of this theatre is quite interesting. On October 31, 1969, the first public Miss Gay Memphis pageant was held in this theatre. The manager, Bill Kendall, was a very outspoken gay man (and will delight in this story being told about him) and arranged, in a town where cross-dressing was against city ordinance, to hold a drag pageant in the theatre. The police could do nothing since it was Halloween and the audience was peppered with RGs (real girls). This pageant is considered a turning point in the struggle for GLBT rights in Memphis. By coincidence, it happened only a few months after the Stonewall Rebellion in Greenwich Village, NYC. That is considered the turning point for the national movement in America.

vastor
vastor on August 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm

There is a local Rocky Horror troupe that has one night a month at the Evergreen. So, movies are regular there again.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on August 6, 2012 at 2:28 am

Regular showings of films does not seem to be the case with this theater if the theater’s website is any guide. It is one of two venues operated by TheaterWorks Memphis and used primarily by several local theater companies for live productions.

vastor
vastor on August 11, 2012 at 12:00 am

The Rocky Horror troupe rents the theatre once a month. It is available for rental. This is the only regular film that I know of but it does take place monthly, according to the banner on the side of the building. The shadow cast is named “Absent Friends.”

Oscarcl
Oscarcl on December 12, 2012 at 8:57 am

If Memphis had a Movie Club, the Evergreen would be a great venue. In many cities I have lived in, a club would meet on Sunday morning for coffee, snacks, and a movie followed by discussion and choosing upcoming films to be screened. Wish we could do that here.

vastor
vastor on May 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm

For those of you who remember the Guild Art Theatre in this building it is my sad duty to report that Bill Kendall, flamboyant and colorful manager during this period, died in Atlanta in April. It’s a long story but a tribute article is available on commercialappeal.com. A gathering is being planned (and it will probably be free dish night for Miss Kendall) in early June at the Evergreen/Guild. There will be film.

possum
possum on May 24, 2013 at 8:58 am

Vastor, please post the details for Bill’s memorial service when they are available. Obviously, there is no more appropriate place for this than at the Guild.

vastor
vastor on July 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I am so sorry, I forgot to post the details of Bill’s gathering. A few friends from all over gathered at the former Guild Theatre on Monday, June 10. We watched his documentary “Return to the Ritz, or, Thrilled to the Guild” and all present enjoyed listening to his inimitable voice and delivery once again. The documentary was made in 1990. Several friends from far and wide donated to have a cenotaph placed in his memory at Elmwood Cemetery. It has been ordered but not yet placed. The event is no longer posted on Facebook but a photo of the marker will be posted after it is placed.

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