Rex Theatre

1612 Midland Avenue,
Fort Smith, AR 72901

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The Rex Theatre was located in the middle of the block on Midland Avenue between N. 12th Street and N. P Street. The Rex Theatre was opened during the mid-to-late-1940’s.

Today, the building is part of the Ameri Cold Logistics Co. Information from the Arkansas Historical Society magazine.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

fkrock
fkrock on September 5, 2010 at 11:09 pm

The Rex Theater was the first new theater building to open in Fort Smith following World War #2. It was not operated by Malco as were all the rest of the Fort Smith theaters at that time. In those days of racial segregation only one Fort Smith movie theater would admit African-Americans. The New Theater admitted them to the second balcony through a separate entrance.
The Rex theater had a large seating area for African-Americans. It was located near African-American housing areas. The theory was that a large number of African-Americans would want to see second run quality movies that were not shown at the New Theater. That theory was wrong. Some local businessmen lost a lot of money.
After a very few years the Rex Theater was converted into a grocery store.

arkansawyer
arkansawyer on March 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

Here some more on the Rex that I wrote in one of my columns and in “Hidden History of Fort Smith:”

Much later, in the postwar heyday of Hollywood and just before the great early expansion of television media, the Rex opened in the 1600 block of Midland Boulevard. Although the building still stands, it has been adapted for use as a cold storage warehouse. The Rex didn’t start its life as an entertainment venue as the Rex, however. Edward Lichty and his brothers Ernest and Selwyn launched it in 1946 as the Pix with the plan of showing movies to an exclusively black audience. Attendance wasn’t robust enough to sustain it.

Jerry Carson worked at the Rex from 1951 to 1953. He said the Lichty brothers changed the name to the Rex because they only had to pay to switch out two letters. Once the name changed, they opened it to a mixed-race audience but one that still was segregated.

Carson said blacks had a separate side entrance and ticket booth and then climbed to a separate balcony where they could sit. Connie Lichty-Smith remembers a glassed-in crying room also built into the balcony of the Rex. That was where her family often watched movies. Admission in the early 1950s was ten cents.

The Rex was a second-run theater and always showed Westerns for Saturday matinees that were filled with children. Buddy Blair remembers seeing movies there, including the original version of The Thing That Came from Outer Space. His parents would drop him off at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Between the two features, cartoons and serials, he was kept busy until almost 5:30 p.m.

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