Ridgeway Cinema Grill

5853 Ridgeway Center Parkway,
Memphis, TN 38120

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Ridgeway lobby with concession and mural--2012

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Ridgeway Four was constructed in 1977. It was a big deal when it opened because of the location and it was very elegant (at least at the time.)

It’s most prominent feature was a huge mural on the back wall of the lobby, large chandeliers and modern styling.

I remember seeing many movies there as a kid and well into my teens. I actually saw “Xanadu” there! I think I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” there as well. It’s still open but I hear mixed reviews about it these days. I no longer live in Memphis but I understand it is now a second run and art house theatre. By 2013, Malco had re-named it Ridgeway Cinema Grill.

Contributed by crackdog

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 1, 2006 at 1:26 pm

“Johnny Betts is a rude ‘abnoxious’ jerk who needs to be ‘punced’ in the face.”– A grammatically-challenged non-fan"

That’s the teaser on the website that Lost Memory links us to. I’m laughing out loud! And yep, crackdog, you’re right, it isn’t as bad as the ‘abnoxious’ Johnny Betts makes it out to be. The Ridgeway is OLD these days: built about 1975, it’s had a long hard life. It is amazing that it’s still operating.

But first things first. The Ridgeway 4 was the 2nd 4-plex that MALCO built in Memphis. (The first was the Quartet, q.v.) Also, the R-4 building replaced THE MALCO (a.k.a. the 1928 Rapp & Rapp designed Orpheum) as MALCO’s corporate headquarters.

It really was a new concept, an experiment in suburban theatre design. The R-4 is completely hidden – invisible from any road, in a low lying parcel with no major retail “anchors” to draw casual customers. If you were going to the Ridgeway, you knew what film you were going to see and WHERE you were going.

The auditoriums (uh, auditoria?) are absolutely standard MALCO design for the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Maroon curtains on the walls, waterfall curtain across the screen, standard seats upholstered in the same maroon as the walls, 4 channel stereo, big candy counter in the lobby.

The real kicker at the Ridgeway is the reverse slope floors. Entering at the back of the halls, the floor slopes downward toward the screen in the traditional auditorium rake- it’s a progressive curve based on sight-lines. However, somewhere around 5 or 6 rows from the screen, the curve bottoms out and begins to slope upward, tilting the seats back at a much steeper angle than usual. It’s the same idea which first gained popularity with the design of planetariums (uh, planetaria?): up close to the screen you don’t have your neck bent for the duration of the show. I’ve sat in those seats, it’s a neat idea, nobody does it anymore for a reason.

I did see many, many movies at the Ridgeway. My memories of the hall are uninspired design, worn out seats and worn out carpet and worn out curtains. But hall was always clean, the pictures were always bright, the sound good and the popcorn fresh. In the 1980’s that’s all we could hope for in a theatre.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 1, 2006 at 1:40 pm

Additional to the above: in the mid ‘80’s Universal re-released five Alfred Hitchcock pictures: North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Trouble with Harry, Rope and Rear Window. These all played at the Ridgeway and I was there with my best pals for each one on the first day of the run. The restored prints were beautiful. Sure, it would have been fun to see them in a movie palace, but the Lightmans never let us down as far as the quality of the image on the screen.

Backseater on February 4, 2007 at 9:39 am

I went there many times too, up until I left Memphis in 1983. Later when back on a visit took my wife, stepson, mother, AND mother-in-law to see Robert DeNiro in “Casino” there, thinking it would be a good movie about Las Vegas—then Joe Peschi started beating people with baseball bats, and I wanted to hide under the seat. Stepson seemed to enjoy it, though…

The mural behind the concession stand (mentioned above) was a collage of about 200 famous movie star portraits, everybody from Marilyn Monroe to the three stooges, and was a local talking point. Otherwise I agree with other reviewers that it was typical bland, uninspired Malco.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 5, 2007 at 3:35 am

WHW, thank you. I had completely forgotten about the collage behind the concession stand. It realy was the only decorative element in any MALCO hall that I ever visited and it was WELL done.

gspragin on July 23, 2007 at 7:28 pm

I remember when the Ridgeway 4 opened and the mural was quite a hit. I saw many movies there, too. Always clean with comfortable seating. I liked those rows near the front.

vastor on August 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm

People who remember the Hollywood Stars collage at the Ridgeway Four do not remember its predecessor which was the focal point of the Highland Quartet. It was removed many years ago the first time Malco tried to retire the cinema (U of M students kept it open for a while).

vastor on July 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm

The present remodeling of the auditoria, one by one, is very up-to-date, stadium-style and with some nice light fixtures. It is more decorative than the upholstered shoeboxes with which it began. It is a hallmark of Malco’s continued fine presentation. The lobby, I believe, is next.

vastor on September 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm

New photos have been uploaded of the remodeled theatre. A collage of famous Hollywood faces by House of Cruthirds is the focal point of the Ridgeway lobby and has been since its opening on June 17, 1977. It also inspired similar decoration in many later Malco theatre lobbies although this is the finest example. Many of the others were airbrushed.

vastor on September 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Jimmie Tashie of Malco Theatres and the theatre manager on duty were very kind to me about taking these photos yesterday. The theatre is indeed very handsome, I would only want the older woodwork exposed and better light fixtures in the lobby. The theatre now caters to an adult—as in mature, want some substance to their movies—crowd. It is prospering and has become a “bistro” cinema serving wine and extra goodies. It is completely redone, converted to digital and I saw “Hugo,” “Marigold Hotel,” and “The Artist” there. The auditoria are remodeled almost out of recognition—for the better—except for the final demise of the curtains over the screen. The old square boxoffice has been removed and the outer foyer area furnished with bistro tables and chairs. Malco can now be really proud of it again as they were in 1977 when in opened. Was looking to see if there was any big spread in Boxoffice Magazine about the Highland Quartet when it opened. There was just a notice. The Ridgeway, I guess being the new home offices, was the one that got the glory. It also is free-standing where the Highland Quartet was in a four-sided…well they called it a mall in 1971…but everything faced outward with just an arcade around the outside. The Highland Quartet was a prime example of the “mimimalist” cinema style of the 70s—it didn’t even have any sort of eye-catching display, just a sign on Poplar Avenue and changeable letter boxes by the front entrance. Thank heaven things are different now.

Logan5 on May 20, 2015 at 10:36 pm

An excerpt from the September 1977 issue of (City Of) Memphis Magazine reads: “It was Monday evening, August 15th, at the Graceland Mansion, and Elvis Presley’s aides had just informed him that they were unable to arrange a private screening of MacArthur, because a projectionist from the Ridgeway Theater, where the film was playing, would not be available at the late hour which Elvis had requested. It was the night before Elvis and his sizeable entourage were scheduled to leave for a 13-day national tour, and he was looking for a way to relieve some of the tension that normally preceded such departures.” Elvis died the next day.

Incidentally, one of the theaters selected for the opening night of the feature film “This Is Elvis” was Malco’s Ridgeway Four Theatre (Friday April 10, 1981). The film had premiered the week before at the Memphian.

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