Lee Theatre

141 W. Tennessee Avenue,
Knoxville, TN 37921

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Lee Theatre

The Lee Theatre is listed as being at 141 W. Tennessee Avenue. It opened on November 27, 1941 with Bob Hope in “Some Like It Hot”. It closed in 1956. That exact address does not seem to exist anymore, but Tennessee Avenue is one of the main streets in the Lonsdale community, and goes by what used to be the Coster Rail Yards. The address may have been displaced when I-275 was built if it was close to the rail yards. I would like to know more about it.

Contributed by Bob Brown

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

tntim on July 18, 2007 at 3:10 pm

My father was the projectionist at the Lee when he first came to Knoxville in 1949. I remember him driving me past where the theatre was when I was a kid. It was definitely on the west side of I-275, so I wonder if the street number was 1141 instead of 141.

The theatre was built by Walter Lee Morris who also built the Pike Theatre later to become the Capri Cinema and the Tower Theatre. He also built the Capri-70 in 1967 which he leased to Charles Simpson who operated both Capri Theatres as part of the Simpson theatre chain.

Walter Morris was an independent theatre owner who successfully sued the studios in 1948 for violation of anti-trust laws.

bbrown1 on July 31, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Do you remember if the building was still standing and/or which side of Tennesse Avenue it was on? In the 70’s, there was a pool hall on Tennessee Avenue I went to a few times which was big enough to have been an old theater. I don’t remember exactly where on Tennessee Avenue it was, but it was on the left as you were driving towards Western Avenue.

tntim on August 2, 2007 at 2:14 pm

I have consulted with Wallace Baumann who is Knoxville’s foremost theatre historian. He told me that the Lee was on the north side of Tennessee Ave not far from I-275. He said that it opened in 1941 and closed in 1956 and seated 500. This was Walter Morris’s first theatre.

bbrown1 on August 6, 2007 at 11:26 pm

The pool hall I remember was on the south side of Tennesse Ave, so obviously is not the same building. Probably had been torn down, as there were not many commercial buildings left on Tennesse Ave by the 70’s. Thanks for the information!

tntim on May 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm

In the Sept. 27, 1941 issue of “Showman’s Trade Review” there is mention that W.E. Drumbar and Walter Morris are building a 600 seat theatre in the Lonsdale section of the city. Drumbar has worked in Knoxville the past 24 years for Publix. Morris spent the last six years working for the Fox West Coast Circuit.

johnwayne on March 5, 2017 at 2:09 am

The Lee Theater was located on the north side of Tennessee Avenue across from Bragg Street as seen in the picture where there are several people standing in front but no truck. It was about one block west of Burnside Street. I lived on Connecticut Avenue and walked about 5 blocks to the Lee when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I got in for 9 cents,got a bag of popcorn,a coke and a candy bar for 15 cents. Total 24 cents. On the way home I’d stop at a grocery store and buy a big 1 cent raisin cookie. What memories.(priceless).The Lee opened in 1941 and sadly closed in 1956.

rivest266 on September 3, 2018 at 2:55 pm

This opened on November 27th, 1941. Grand opening ad posted.

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