Frances Theatre

114 E. Court Street,
Dyersburg, TN 38024

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Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

It would be worth the trouble of getting good grades to have a theater named after you.

I think the Palace must have been at the northeast corner of Court Street and Mill Avenue, opposite the town’s “skyscraper.” The building there has the same pedimented parapet on the front, although the whole structure has been plastered over, losing all its nice brick and stone details.

The photos of the Ritz don’t give enough context to tell where it was, though they show that it had buildings on both sides.

The last photo on page three of the “Street Scenes” collection shows the Capitol Theatre.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

I found two theatres located in Dyersburg that were operating in 1914. The Lyric and the Pastime. I already added the Lyric. After reading your comment, I’m holding off on the Pastime Theatre. The Pastime was located on Mill Avenue between Court and Market, so I don’t want to add it and then find out that its a another name for the Palace.

The Frances Theatre is listed in the 1926 Film Daily Yearbook along with a 400 seat Vandette Theatre. The Frances Theatre is spelled “Francis” in the 1926 FDY, and I believe that the “Vandette” might actually be the Vaudette Theatre.

Ripshin on April 7, 2014 at 12:19 pm

To correct a person today, the rating system began in 1968. There were technically no “R-rated” films in the 50s.

Ripshin on April 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm

There was a theater at the NE corner of Main & Market – it was leveled at some point prior to 1974, when my family moved to Dyersburg. There is a one-story building there now, obviously not matching the surrounding structures.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

You might as well add the Palace. It must have been in the building on the north side of the square at 120 Court Street (street view) now occupied by an attorney’s office. Mill between Court and Market would have been the west side of the square, so the Pastime would not have become the Palace. It’s possible that it became the Ritz, but the Ritz is still a puzzle so I’m not at all sure.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Ripshin: If you are referring to the Capitol Theatre, we had the wrong address for it. The Capitol was actually south of Market Street, at modern address 202 S. Main. Check the photo in my comment of 6:39 pm yesterday. A thumbnail link to a photo showing the Capitol is at the bottom of the third page of thumbnails. The photo shows the front of the building at the northeast corner of Main and Market as well. I think that building is actually still there, but has had its second floor removed. It looks much too narrow to have had a theater in it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Here is information about Dyersburg from the January 7, 1927, issue of Motion Picture News:

“Three Dyersburg Houses Bought by Crescent

“The deal for the purchase of three theatres in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and four in nearby West Tennessee towns from the Dyersburg Theatre Corporation by the Crescent Amusement Company, of Nashville, Tenn., has been concluded.

“Tony Sudekum, president; Harry Sudekum, treasurer; General Manager Dean, and J. P. Masters, district manager, returned to Nashville the latter part of last week after contracts had been signed and negotiations fully completed.

“The Crescent Amusement Company already operates one theatre in the city, the Palace. One of the purchased motion picture houses will be closed. The other will be operated and the road show house, the Frances, also will be operated. The Crescent Company also will continue operation of the other picture houses purchased at Ridgely, Tiptonville. Obion and Halls.”

So the Frances and Palace Theatres were in operation by early 1927. It’s unfortunate that he other two houses bought by Crescent were not named in the item.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Something isn’t right with the Palace Theatre photos on that website. The caption with one photo reads, “Newbern Palace Theatre 1950”. The other photo caption reads “Palace corner of West Court and Mill Avenue circa 1920”. The Palace first appears in the 1930 Film Daily Yearbook with no seating given. In 1934 seating is given as 676. The Palace is no longer listed in 1935.

If the photo is circa 1920, the Palace should have been listed in the FDY earlier than 1930. Should we still use a timeline of around 1920 to 1934 even though its not listed prior to 1930? It seems that there is still a piece missing from this puzzle.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

The movie 7th Heaven was released in 1927, so that photo’s caption is off by several years. As the article I cited in my previous comment was dated January 7, 1927, I think we can safely assume that the Palace was in operation by 1926.

The Frances Theatre keeps getting older, though. If it was named for the 1923 high school valedictorian, it got the name even before she started high school. This is from the August 25, 1917, issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Dyersburg Theaters Consolidate.

“Dyersburg, Tenn. — C. J. Enochs has been appointed manager of both the Vaudette and New Frances theaters of this town, following the recent consolidation of these two moving picture houses. Mr. Enochs was formerly manager and proprietor of the Vaudette, but is now in active charge of both theaters. The orchestras of both the New Frances and Vaudette theaters have been released, and music is being supplied by electrical instruments at both places.”

The use of the name “New Frances” suggests that there might have been an earlier Frances Theatre. Perhaps Frances Shepard Fowlkes' parents owned the theater.

This item also reveals that the Vaudette Theatre was in operation as early as 1917, and that it was large enough to have supported an orchestra. As we don’t yet have any overlap between the operating years of the Palace and the Vaudette, perhaps they were the same theater?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

That is a good question. I need to correct my previous comment. The Palace Theatre first appears in the 1929 FDY with no seating given. The Vaudette is listed that year with 400 seats. In the 1930 edition, the Palace is still listed with no seat count and the Vaudette is no longer listed. Maybe the Palace replaced the Vaudette Theatre or it could just be a coincidence that one theatre appears and the other disappears. A city directory or a telephone book could help to solve this mystery, but I haven’t found any online so far.

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