1800 3rd Avenue North,
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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 March 1960.
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.
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