Evergreen Theatre

1705 Poplar Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38104

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vastor on July 20, 2013 at 6:23 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.

possum on May 24, 2013 at 5:58 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 on May 23, 2013 at 1:06 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.

Oscarcl on December 12, 2012 at 5:57 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 on August 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm

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.”

CSWalczak on August 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm

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 on August 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

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

vastor on July 25, 2011 at 2:54 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.

CSWalczak on February 14, 2010 at 10:44 pm

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

gspragin on November 4, 2006 at 11:38 am

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.

gspragin on November 2, 2006 at 7:32 pm

Looks like I need to shoot a photo on my way to work tomorrow. I pass this theatre every day.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on September 22, 2006 at 8:06 am

First, the Ritz was equipped with a small Kilgen pipe organ in a single chamber at one side of the stage. It was removed long ago, current location unknown.

The Circuit Playhouse (a.k.a. the Ritz and the Guild) is a magnificent example of the adaptive reuse of an historic building: it was extensively remodeled to accomodate live theatre. The original stage and pipe organ chamber still exist and are part of the rehearsal hall. Costume shop, dressing rooms and storage were also accomodated into the space that was once the area closest to the screen. The significantly reduced auditorium is not without a certain bohemian charm. The tiny lobby had a shabby-chic facelift which is entirely appropriate for the venue.

It should be noted that under Jackie Nichols direction, Playhouse-On-The-Square and its sister facility, Circuit Playhouse, provide live theatre of the absolute highest quality. Mr. Nichols has proven himself not only a theatrical director of exceptional talent but also a businessman with financial acumen seemingly equal to Donald Trump’s. His playhouse facilities have been financially successful for nearly 40 years. His approach to recreating old buildings for new uses approaches the level of visionary.

(Think the praise is too effusive? You haven’t seen what he’s done.)

The Playhouse webside’s “history” page

View link

indicates that new facilities are in the works that will replace both of 1920’s-era movie theatres. We can only hope that the Memphian and the Ritz (to use their former names)
will find new uses and continue to entertain future generations.

gorkipk on April 21, 2006 at 6:37 pm

Wingo, you and I must have been in the same audience for many of the movies that I watched at the Guild. No soft drinks, just coffee, right? After all it was an “art” house. Wingo, contact me at for nostalgia related to Memphis theatres.

Some of the titles that I also remember:
Carry On Series…
Cold Wind In August
Leather Boys
Seance on ……Afternoon
Umbrellas of Cherborg
The Knack
Knife In The Water
Girl With Green Eyes
Batman Serial Revival (40’s)
to name just a few.

Backseater on October 3, 2005 at 7:54 pm

I got my start in show business as a doorman/ticket taker at the Guild from 1965-67 and again from 1973-74, rising eventually to the rank of “assistant manager.” Everybody said it had once been named the Ritz. It was already being run by the Art Theater Guild in 1963 when I first went there as a freshman at Southwestern at Memphis (AKA “Rhodes College” —gag—). It was a medium-long walk or a short car ride (if you had one) from the SW campus and it seemed that entire generations of SW students had worked there. The tradition was that when you were about to graduate, you picked your successor and personally introduced him/her to the manager, Bill Kendall—a real nice guy and an SW grad himself. Almost everyone so introduced was hired. I remember seeing—not necessarily in order—“The Pawnbroker” with Rod Steiger, highly controversial in early 1960s Memphis because a black woman went topless; “Phaedra” with Melina Mercouri, Raf Vallone, and Anthony Perkins; “Blow-Up” for 8 weeks followed by “Georgy Girl” for 7 weeks (almost all showings were sold out—we called it “The House the Redgraves Built”); Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water”; Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light”; Fellini’s “8-½”; and (later) Richard Burton and Jenny Agutter in “Equus”, among many, many others. By 1973 the Art Theater Guild had pulled out and Mr. Kendall was booking the theater himself. Eventually, this failed and it was taken over by a third party who obtained a beer license and started perhaps one of the first “cabaret” or more accurately, “bar” theaters. Although no longer working there by then, I went as a customer and saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show” first-run before it became a cult classic and while you could still hear the dialog (approximately 1976). Unfortunately, I had several beers before the show started and don’t remember much about it. I lost track of the Guild during my last few years in Memphis, 1977-83. It was closed for a while, but eventally was acquired by Circuit Playhouse, a division of Playhouse on the Square, and is now a live theater venue. From the seating chart their website, it appears that they have enlarged the stage and cut out or replaced lots of the original seats. When I worked there it was a large open auditorium with no balcony and seated about 600. The original small square screen from the 1930s was still there, but a larger screen had been installed in front of it, with the loss of several rows of seats. Starting about 1966 we showed “Underground Movies” at midnight on Saturdays for a few months. It was illegal in Memphis to start a public movie after midnight, so we turned the entire theater into a private club with a 25-cent lifetime membership fee. Ah, memories.