Melba Theatre

2020 2nd Avenue North,
Birmingham, AL 35203

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This theatre premiered the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird” on April 3, 1963. Two Birmingham residents, Mary Badlam and Philip Alford were at the premier as they played Scout and Jem, Atticus Finch’s children in the Academy Award winning movie. Atticus was played by the late Gregory Peck. Mary called Mr. Peck by the name, Atticus until the day he died on June 12, 2003.

The Melba Theatre operated from the 1950’s, and lasted into the early-1980’s when it was closed.

Any further information would be appreciated.

Contributed by Patsy

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 3, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Here is a photo of the Melba from the 1960s. The photo should look familiar to you Patsy. :)

Patsy
Patsy on March 4, 2009 at 2:12 am

Lost: Yes, it does and thank you for posting about this theatre which has an important connection to the classic movie, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 4, 2009 at 2:24 am

The Melba is listed in the 1955 Film Daily Yearbook but no seat count is given. It might have opened or was about to open around that time.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 4, 2009 at 2:37 am

This is from the Cullman (AL) Banner, dated 3/14/46:

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hury and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Griffin will attend
the opening of the Melba Theater in Birmingham Thursday (today).

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 4, 2009 at 2:41 am

Could be. It’s odd that the Film Daily’s don’t list the Melba.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

A photo in Tim Hollis’s book “Birmingham’s Theater and Retail District” shows the Melba Theatre next door to the Comer Building, now the City Federal Building, which is located at Second Avenue North and Richard Arrington, Jr. Boulevard (formerly 21st Street.) The City Federal Building is has been converted into an apartment complex with the address 2024 Second Avenue North, so the address of the Melba would have been about 2020 or 2022 Second Avenue North. There is now a parking garage with retail office spaces on the ground floor at this location.

Hollis’s book says the Melba was demolished in 1984. The photo includes a partial view of another theater three doors up the block from the Melba, but I can’t make out a name on its marquee, only the word theatre. Cinema Treasures has no theater listed at that location. Its site, too, has been covered by the garage building.

BamaFnNTn
BamaFnNTn on May 5, 2012 at 2:42 am

The Melba was opened in 1946. It was the last theater opened new in Downtown Birmingham, and the only one that was opened as a sound venue. All the others were built previous to that and were converted to sound. A possibility for the theater three doors down is the Royal, which was along that area as well. Sadly the Melba spent the last ten years of life playing mostly re-releases from the 1950s like HOUSE OF WAX in 3D (which I saw there as a pre-teen) and movies of the almost X-Rated Grindhouse genre (didnt se those.. LOL).

It began to cater also to the Urban African American community for being the first release house for the “Blacksploitation” movies like Shaft and the Superfly series.
The Melba was also popular during this era for the Chinese “Kung-Fu” type movies featuring Bruce Lee. While the Blacksploitation and Kungfu type movies were considered B-movies in the time, they are now recognized as a special genre of movie history and the Melba was chosen to be part of that.

happywalker
happywalker on June 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Joe Vogel I believe the other theatre might have been the Empire.

StanMalone
StanMalone on June 5, 2013 at 12:08 am

The Empire was located one street up on 3rd Ave. The Melba and I think the Empire as well were operated by Cobb Theatres in their final years as horror and Blaxploitation houses. I do not remember another 2nd Avenue theatre on that side of 21st Street so it must have been gone by the late 50’s which is the earliest I can remember attending movies at the Melba and other downtown theatres.

StanMalone
StanMalone on June 5, 2013 at 12:12 am

One other note: The Google map showing the location at the top of this page is way off. The Melba, Empire, Ritz, and Alabama were all located within a 6 square block area a good 20 blocks east of where the red dot indicates. Melba and Empire were on the east side of 21st street and the Alabama and Ritz a block or so west of 21st.

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