Sebastian Theater

615 Garrison Avenue,
Fort Smith, AR 72901

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This theater was one of the rare backwards theaters. The patrons entered at the screen and then turned around and sat down to view the picture.

After spending a fortune to build in 1914, the theater mysteriously closed after only one year of operation. It was carefully remodeled into an insurance office and later a women’s clothing store.

The amazing thing is that much of the original 1914 decoration still survives hidden under the alterations.

The building is presently vacant.

Contributed by Joe Wasson

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

TimAddyman
TimAddyman on July 18, 2007 at 7:27 am

There was also another backwards cinema in York, England. It opened as The Electric Theatre on 3rd of June 1911 and was the city’s first purpose built cinema.
It became the Scala in 1951 and later closed in 1957. The buildings ornate exterior survices and now welcomes customer into a furniture shop. The rake of the floor is still in evidence as is internal plasterwork.
The building is Grade II listed as a building of historic importance and the owners look after it well.

jazzland
jazzland on August 9, 2007 at 8:02 am

The Famous Theatre in New orleans was also a reverse or backwards theatre.

fmbeall
fmbeall on September 13, 2007 at 4:50 pm

San Francisco had a true reverse theatre. It was the Theatre St. Francis on Geary near Powell. It opened in October 1916 but closed as a theatre just a few years later. The building still stands. The very theatrical street facade is acutally the old stage house and the auditorium was to the back. It has been Lefty O'Doul’s Hofbrau for many years.

ticktock11
ticktock11 on March 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm

The Movie House in Portland, OR, was also a reverse. I’m not sure it was built for movies; it may have been a remodel of an existing auditorium.

jaxsunst
jaxsunst on March 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm

The Daisy in Memphis is (I believe) a reverse.

RoadsideArchitecture.com
RoadsideArchitecture.com on April 21, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Is this theatre really still there? I went looking for it at the above address and only found a vacant lot.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 21, 2008 at 10:04 pm

In the Google Maps satellite view, this location (at least as Google marks it with its little green arrow) is a parking lot now, and one that looks as though it’s been there a long time and hasn’t been paved in years. Furthermore, TerraServer provides an aerial photo from 2000, and it too shows 615 Garrison as a parking lot. Are both websites mis-marking the location? Joe Wasson reported the building being vacant when he added the Sebastian to the database. That must have been later than 2000, since CT hasn’t been around that long. Is the listed address wrong? Where’s the Sebastian?

BhillH20
BhillH20 on June 16, 2008 at 4:17 pm

The close-up figure sure can pass for a young Rosalind Russell!!

MDaurora
MDaurora on December 30, 2009 at 10:40 am

The Phiel Theater in St Petersburg FL (1918-1959) was a reverse due to the builder Abram C. Phiel, having survived a theater fire in his youth, wanting the projection booth hanging off the back of the auditorium outside where a fire would not spread to the auditorium.
Interesting guy Phiel was. Self made millionaire, one time mayor of St Petersburg and the first paying passenger ever on a scheduled airline flight.

carolgrau
carolgrau on February 9, 2010 at 11:41 pm

There is also a small neighborhood theatre in Millersburg,Pa. that is a reverse theatre.. I worked it a few times, but can’t remembeer the name of it…Owned by the Troutman family of the cinema center family…

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