Gay Theatre

3811 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue,
Knoxville, TN 37914

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Originally opened as the Rivoli Theatre, this later became the Burlington Theatre, and by the early 1940s, had been renamed the Gay Theatre.

Contributed by Will Dunklin

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 5, 2006 at 8:28 am

Will….why don’t you email Bryan and ask him to use your great comment above this one as a description for this theater.

bbrown1 on July 5, 2007 at 6:48 pm

In the 70’s, I lived in East Knoxville,and used to go by this little theatre quite often. There was a little IGA Supermarket still open in what had been the business district of Burlington that I often shopped at that was very close by the theatre building. I think the bar there was still open at the time. I am sad the building is gone. I would like to learn more about it’s history.

Bob Brown

BannerJohn1954 on December 9, 2007 at 12:19 pm

At some point in the late 50’s/early 60’s the Gay was turned into a bowling alley. My brother was a pin-setter there when he was in his early teens. One day while rummaging around back,my younger brother and I found the old wooden frames that once held the posters and lobby cards out front. WE took what we could carry home and had some fun playing theater.
I miss Burlington. It was a thriving place when I was young. It is an overlooked gem that has been largly forgotten by Knoxville’s past two millionaire mayors,because it is East,not West. A smart developer could do wonders with it today.
By the way,Bob,,the IGA was Cox & Wright’s…operated by Jack Cox and Fred Wright,two of the finest men who ever lived. If not for their kindness, I,as a baby,would have gone hungry many times. They didn’t give credit,but Jack would always let mu mom have formula and stuff for us kids til payday.
There is still a Cox& Wright in Rutledge Tn,still owned by the family as far as I know. Come to think of it,Burlington had more than its fair share of good men..Blaine Farmer at the hardware store, Dr Greenlee at the drug store…Mr Keaton (Jewelry store) Mr and Mrs Pass ( dime store)…there were no bad people in Burlington in those days.
You can take the boy out of Burlington,but you can’t take Burlington out of the Boy.

tndrivein on December 17, 2007 at 5:44 pm

I have a few photos of the exterior of the theater from 1994 – Will post one when that part of the site allows. Anyone want copy email me. ,,,Another Burlington Boy… The Gay was a machine shop in its last days – at least the back part.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 21, 2008 at 11:48 am

Here is the 1994 photo of the Gay Theater mentioned by Junkinben in the comment above. Its probably his photo.

bbrown1 on June 14, 2009 at 6:35 pm

At the link below is a photo of the Gay Theatre in 1956:

View link

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 17, 2009 at 9:44 am

Bob, the link doesn’t work – at least for me. Can you check your end?

bbrown1 on July 20, 2009 at 6:54 pm

The whole RESTORE KNOXVILLE website seems to be down. Hopefully it’s just temporary. I’ll let you know when and if it comes back up.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I have a KNOXVILLE Newspaper Sept 24 1967,Movie ads No GAY THEATRE listed so it was Closed then.If tthat even helps.

bbrown1 on March 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Below are the photos of the Gay Theatre in 1956 and then 1994 noted above. The original links both appear to be broken:

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