Lyric Theater

1800 3rd Avenue North,
Birmingham, AL 35203

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Lyric Theatre

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The Lyric Theater opened January 14, 1914 as a vaudville theatre with 1,583 seats located in orchestra, mezzanine and upper balcony levels. It was a segregated theatre where African-Americans would sit separately in the upper balcony, which had its own entrance on 18th Street. It was operated by the B.F. Keith circuit and stars such as Rube Goldberg, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, The Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Will Rogers, Milton Berle, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry appeared here. There were six opera boxes on each side of the proscenium, which were removed when the theatre was equipped for CinemaScope in 1954. Above the proscenium is a mural titled “The Allegory of the Muses” painted by local artist Harry Hawkins. In 1925 a Kilgen 2 manual 4 ranks theatre organ was installed. The Lyric Theatre was closed as a regular movie theatre in 1958. It reopened on April 19, 1973 as the Grand Bijou Theatre with Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer” and specialized in screening classic movies, but this was not a success. It went over to adult movies first as the Foxy Adult Cinema, and later as the Roxy Adult Cinema which closed in the early-1980’s. The building lay empty and unused and in 1993, the owners sold it for $10 to Birmingham Landmarks. In 1998 plans were being formed to reopen the Lyric Theatre, but very little happened and the building began to deteriorate.

In March 2014, plans were approved for an $8million renovation to be carried out. The opera boxes have been re-instated, and the mural restored by Evergreene Architectural Art, who worked on most of the internal restoration. The Lyric Theatre re-opened January 14, 2016 (102 years to the day of its initial opening). It will be a live music and concert venue. Seating has been reduced to 750 as the upper balcony is not in use.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on October 19, 2010 at 9:28 am

From the 1940s a photo postcard view of downtown Birmingham that captured a view of the Lyric Theater.

jjmaccrimmon
jjmaccrimmon on October 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Thank you for sharing this beautiful.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on October 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Thanks again Don.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on November 25, 2010 at 7:50 pm

From the early 1900s a night time postcard view of Third Avenue along with the Bijou Theater in Birmingham.

TivFan
TivFan on October 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm

The 18th Street facade of the Lyric can be seen in the l976 Bob Rafelson film, “Stay Hungry”. It is the very last shot of the film. It is also the last shot in the trailer, as well. The shot shows a body builder posing on each of the horizonal levels of the fire escapes. The painted Lyric sign (on the upper wall) and some of the marquee and vertical sign are shown. The letter board on the marquee states: AL GOLDSTEIN FELICITY SPLIT IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD (a rating, I’m assuming, is unreadable to the right of the film title.) According to previous posts, the Lyric showed adult films in the l970’s. It’s a great movie. “Stay Hungry”, that is…

jjmaccrimmon
jjmaccrimmon on October 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Ladies and Gents, on Sep 28th, 2012, The Lyric Theatre hosted it’s first live performance in over 60 years. The event was a benefit concert by the Chad Fisher Jazz ensemble to raise funds for the continued restoration efforts for the Lyric. To accomplish this feat, volunteers laid down new temporary plywood flooring and lighting. Patrons brought their own chairs. Special dispensation was given by the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Fire Marshal and Code Enforcement to permit this special show. 200 tickets for this performance sold out in a matter of days.

Although the theater area has substantial water damage and decay, the sound quality was nothing less than astonishing. Live jazz spilled across the audience warm and rich as honey. There appeared to be clear sight and sound lines from all parts of the main floor. The band later reported that the sound quality and natural feedback from the venue walls was incredible.

http://savethelyric.com/ https://rally.org/savethelyric

cinemad
cinemad on March 12, 2013 at 3:14 am

what a beautiful old lady this theatre is..shame so many of her conteparies have already died….

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on January 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

Here’s a blog post with some recent photographs of the Lyric Theatre

atmos
atmos on December 13, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Theatre is scheduled to reopen on 14 January.

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