Bristol Theatre

3415 Summer Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38122

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Iceberg on October 17, 2017 at 8:08 am

I think the Bristol closed around May of 1977 unless it operated for a while without newspaper ads (which a few theaters did at some point). However, I think it did close in 1977 with seats being removed, etc.

Oscarcl on June 14, 2013 at 4:06 am

If you lived in Highland Heights, you very likely went to this theatre often. It was cheap, close, showed more movies/cartoons/serials/etc than you could digest. They had the best popcorn (real popcorn), nickel and dime candies. That poor lady who was the manager in the 50s had her hands full on Saturday afternoon with a house full of wandering kids and fights and sneaks who didn’t pay to get in. What a fun time to be alive that was. I will never forget those simple, innocent days of my youth.

Projectguy on June 13, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I worked part-time for Mitch as a projectionist at the theatre. It was the most fun I had ever had. This was in 1968. I have some very memories of that time

montgomerypaul on June 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm

We Saw “Wait untill Dark”

montgomerypaul on June 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm

You know your old when you had you first date at The Bristol. I am suprised no one has mentioned the big rats that use to run accross the seat Isle and accross the front. THat was in late 60s and early 70s. Man I loved Memphis back then !

vastor on June 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm

A photo of the Bristol has been posted.

Oscarcl on May 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Vincent— My book is called CAPTURING THE REEL WORLD. It is not available except from me yet. I had a book signing at Davis Kidd (Laurelwood Booksellers) and did well but I am not much of a self-promoter. Maybe we could exchange books. I work at MHI and I know you are involved there as well. I’ll leave a copy with June for you.Charlie Lambert

PS My favorite movie from Bristol days was THEM! scared me out of my wits.

vastor on May 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm

The film I remember most at the Bristol was a double-feature, Murders in the Rue Morgue and House of Wax (non-3-d). We went to other theatres, but lived further in town. We mostly went to first-run at the Plaza or Park or downtown until the Paramount opened. What is the name of your book? I’d like to see it, if I haven’t come across it in my research for my new book. Am picking up the project of doing a lot of updating to Cinema Treasures and will get a Bristol photo soon.

Oscarcl on April 7, 2013 at 7:41 am

Vincent, you are the expert and I defer to you. Did you ever attend the old Bristol? My childhood would not have been the same without it. Attended your presentation at MHI. I have a book published last year about old Memphis memorabilia, including references to old theatres. One whold chapter is devoted to saturday Afternoons at the Bristol.

vastor on April 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

The Bristol Theatre entry building exists but the auditorium is no longer standing, sorry. The scooter shop has the incorrect address, I checked. A photo in the Newman Collection at Memphis Heritage and another one in the Memphis Room shows the Bristol marquee on the building pictured above. You can see the marks where the marquee was hung in the above photo. I will obtain the photo from the library and post it. The auditorium was far back from the entrance and has been demolished. You can find the Newman photo on the Memphis Heritage website under the Newman Collection.

Oscarcl on December 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

I do not want to say anyone is wrong but the Bristol Theatre building is still standing. It is now a scooter shop. You can pick it out in middle of the block on Summer Avenue due to its height above the other buildings. I went there almost every saturday from 1950 to 1957. Fondest memories are seeing all 15-episodes of the serial JUNGLE RAIDERS and watching the lady/manager trying to control the kids on Saturday afternoons. It must have been like herding cats.10 cents to get in. Those were wonderful days.

calldon on January 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I don’t remember the theatre, but Pilant Music Center was in that strip in the 1970s. I worked there.

mjl1297 on August 27, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Respecting the first comment Mitchell did run this theatre as a hobby during the 70s. My Dad and Mitchell were great friends so I spent a fair amount of time in the Bristol when I was young. Sadly Mitchell passed away recently after a long illness. Mitchell’s passion, like my Dad, was the old movies particularly the B Westerns and the serials. He often exhibited these films on the weekend charging a small admission and selling concessions. I didn’t realise it at the time but he was keeping the single screen neighbourhood theatre alive using the typical screening format from the thirties through the fifties (cartoon, short, chapter play, and main feature).

The theatre was a rather standard design with the usual Art Deco appointments. When I was there the theatre was in decent but not great shape. I vividly recall one night when Sunset Kit Carson put in an appearance signing autographs and meeting with fans. After the main feature had concluded Mitchell locked the doors and a small group of us walked back into the auditorium. Mitchell had the house lights up and there was a shooting target set up on the floor in front of the screen. With a .22 rifle in his hand Sunset took up a position on the opposite end of the theatre (a fair distance away) and they set the target in motion ( a lit candle on a pendulum). Sunset shot that target handily about ten times in a row—the bullets catching in the back of the target mount. No one else ventured to try it. Looking back on it now that was a pretty dangerous thing to do right on Summer Avenue! Good times though!

Easyrider on November 19, 2005 at 11:10 pm

As a kid, I went to the Bristol Theater many a Saturdays. That was back in the 60’s. My dad would drop me off there and pick me up after the movie. We lived in the Berclair area off of Mendenhall.
As I remember, it wasn’t the cleanest theater back then. As I got older, I remember making out in the back row of the theater.

Backseater on October 24, 2005 at 11:43 pm

The Bristol was a smaller neighborhood theater just West of Highland Street. According to Memphis old-timers, It got its name from the time when the area was way out in the suburbs and that section of Summer Avenue was called the “Bristol Highway.” Bristol is clear at the other end of Tennessee, about as far away from Memphis as you can get and still be in the state. In the mid-to-late 1970s it was being run by a Memphis movie buff named Mitchell Shapperkotter, probably more for a hobby than as a true commercial endeavor. I remember reading an article in the Commercial Appeal about it. My friend Bill Kendall, once manager at the Guild Theater (q.v.), worked there briefly after he left the Guild but eventually gave it up. I saw one film there—a second-run screening of John Wayne in “The Shootist,” which would have been 1977 or thereabouts. It was demolished shortly after that. I don’t remember much about the theater except that it had a very long, narrow lobby running clear through the office block to the auditorium on the back side. It wasn’t in real good shape in those days, either.