Majestic Theatre

237 E. Main Street,
Johnson City, TN 37604

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Majestic Theatre

The Grand Theatre was Johnson City’s premiere theatre and was opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1902. In June 1914 it was renamed Majestic Theatre. In 1921 it went over movies, operating as a first run movie house for over 50 years. Its Wurlitzer organ was used to accompany the silent films.

During the 1940’s, it was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Wilby-Kincey. In 1946 it was remodeled in a Moderne style. It was closed in 1981, and was demolished in August 1993.

Contributed by Michael Hopson

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

flimbuff
flimbuff on September 30, 2004 at 1:44 pm

Great older theatre: inlaid tile entrance, free-standing ticket booth, thick-carpeted lobby, long velvet drapes and a dark, hidden balcony. I remember seeing two films there: Apocolypse Now and Earthquake with Charlton Heston. Earthquake featured some Hollywood gimmickry called
“sens-a-round”, in which large motors were placed in the rear of the auditorium that shook the building during the tremor scenes in the film. This was a little too realistic as it caused structural damage to the building which ultimately led to its closure. No one stepped up to have the old theatre renovated, so it sat for years until finally becoming condemned by the city governement. Eventually it was demolished and a small city park sits in its place. Unfortunately with its passing, so went all the beautiful old theatres in Johnson City.

BannerJohn1954
BannerJohn1954 on December 9, 2007 at 12:29 pm

I almost cry when I pass by that big empty space,and think of the memories,and what could have been. The leaders of Johnson City are always talking about revitalizing downtown,but the fact is,unlike Bristol,Knoxville,Chattanooga…there really is no reason to come downtown anymore. Had someone stepped up and saved the Majestic (or the Tennessee),there would now be a reason.
UNfortunately,the leaders(?) in Johnson City seem to be more apt to tear things down than anything else. The Johnson City I remember of 40 years ago is mostly gone. I their zeal to make Johnson City from a small town (which it is) into a big town (which it is NOT) they are destroying the charm that brought people here in the first place. I expect a huge exodus to Bristol,Kingsport,even Greenville or Irwin,any day now.

Ripshin
Ripshin on March 29, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Saw many films there, when on vacation visiting my grandmother – 60s/70s. Specifically, I remember “Willy Wonka”.

Ripshin
Ripshin on May 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Unfortunately, the city powers-that-be STILL love to tear things down. They actually envision making half of downtown a PARK of some sort, demolishing further structures. Amazing. The Capri and Majestic should have been saved. The Capri was covered with one of those horrible plastic/aluminum false fronts, so popular in the 60s, for its final two decades.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Sad comment on a great East Tenn city. I am so glad we saved the IMPERIAL, MODJESKA and Miller theatres in downtown Augusta,Ga.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 25, 2012 at 3:55 am

The scan is a bit blurry, but in Boxoffice of August 17, 1946, there are two pairs of before-and-after photos depicting the results of a remodeling of the Majestic. The auditorium looked atmospheric originally, but the whole house became Art Moderne when remodeled. No architect or designer was credited in the article.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on July 14, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Address should be changed to 237 E. Main Street. Majestic Park is now where the theatre stood. The Majestic opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1902, and began showing motion pictures in either 1921 or the mid 1920s. It was demolished August 1993, not 1996. There is a plaque at the park entrance. Below is the Facebook page link for Majestic Park, with multiple photos including some dated demolition photos. I uploaded them with descriptions to the Photos Section.

https://www.facebook.com/Majestic-Park-291325267714520/

Ripshin
Ripshin on July 23, 2018 at 10:58 am

That Majestic Park Facebook page is disturbing. People praising the massive destruction of architecture. The soul of a city is its history – not park after park. JC is notorious for doing this. People are so enthralled with the former U-Haul sign, while they allowed numerous structures to be demolished. East TN is JUST starting to realize the value of historic downtowns, but far too late. “Urban Renewal” gutted East TN cities in the 70s.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on August 28, 2018 at 7:09 am

Additional history courtesy of Rhonda Murphy:

Grand Theatre Renamed Majestic Theatre in June 1914 Johnson City, TN

An announcement in the June 8, 1914 edition of The Johnson City Staff contained an advertisement proclaiming, “Commencing Today the Grand Renamed The Majestic Theatre."

The ad went on to say, “The Majestic Theatre will Open Its Doors Every Day at 11 a.m. and Run Without Stop until 10:30 p.m. Admission from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., 5 Cents Any Seat in the House – From 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., 5 and 10 Cent Seats – Coolest Spot in the City, Best Pictures, Finest Music.”

In that same edition of the newspaper, the theatre’s management defined its future operating policies aimed at attracting new business. The change was initially aimed at ladies who came downtown shopping and wanted to spend time at a good, cool place and have an opportunity to see a first class motion picture at a nominal price of five cents. The modification likewise afforded farmers and their families and anyone coming to the city from nearby towns to likewise have access to a relaxing luxury.

The strategy developed by management was to combine convenience with comfort. Popular playhouses throughout the South, including Atlanta, Augusta, Chattanooga, Asheville and Jacksonville had found this policy to be popular and believed that it would meet with identical approval in Johnson City. In a nutshell, the Majestic wanted to make its theatre a memorable stopover experience for people.

The managing team secured for the public a Lubin masterpiece, “The Lion and the Mouse,” which had proven to be a phenomenal success in all the larger cities of Europe and America and had enjoyed an extended run in New York City. The story centered on an investigation of Standard Oil with the main character being a poorly disguised John D. Rockefeller. The production was billed as “but a foretaste of the really great features that are being booked by the Majestic.”

The administration desired that the people of Johnson City always feel assured that whenever a special feature was announced at the Majestic Theatre that it would be something worthwhile for them to attend.

To contrast the old Grand with the new Majestic, just three weeks prior to the renaming of the theatre, two quality plays were offered. A newspaper ad stated, “The Grand Theatre, Johnson City, Tennessee – The Frank Lea Short Company, Management of Russell Kanney, Presenting “Pomander Walk,” (Matinee) by Louis N. Parker and “Robin Hood and his Merrie Men” (Evening) – Saturday, May 16.

According to the newspaper, “‘Pomander Walk” ran for an entire year at Wallack’s Theatre in New York and was proclaimed to be the most charming play of the generation. The 3-act comedy was said to rout its audience out of the busy day and set them in a dream world. It said, “The sun comes out on Pomander Walk, the sun goes down on Pomander Walk, the moon beams o’er Pomander Walk; the lamp is lighted sentinel-like o’er Pomander Walk. You too are in Pomander Walk, one of its happy dreamers – irresistibly lured to its ingenious dreaminess. It is a delight.”

A description of the other play claimed, “’Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ had universal appeal of the romantic story of the nobleman outlaw and his band. Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Alan-A-Dale, the valiant High Sheriff of Nottingham, Friar Tuck and King Richard of the Lion Heart himself were placed in a stirring romantic comedy.” It was said to be “alive with laughter and action and thrills and brilliant in pageantry costuming and setting.”

On that June 8 morning of 1914, a new theatre marquee was seen on Main Street, beginning a run that would continue for 67 years. The theatre closed its doors in 1981.

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