Birmingham Theater

1700 Third Avenue North,
Birmingham, AL 35203

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The theater that closed and was demolished in 1950 as the Birmingham Theater had a rich and varied history both as a cinema and as a vaudeville house dating back to the building’s opening around 1890 as the Birmingham Auditorium, a general civic facility located on Third Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, about a block way from where the still-surviving Alabama Theatre was later built. In 1898, it became the Bijou Theatre and became a venue for prominent touring vaudeville companies and major performers of that era, including George M. Cohan.

In 1915, the theater closed for two years, reopening as the Birmingham outpost of the Loew’s vaudeville circuit, and now known as Loew’s Bijou Theatre, with a large electric sign on the roof proclaiming Loew’s Vaudeville. In that era, Loew’s even brought circus and animal acts to the theater as well as film.

In 1927, Loew’s moved its operations over to a nearby former Masonic Hall that had been converted to a theater, proclaiming it now Loew’s Temple Theatre. The Bijou then became the Birmingham home for the Pantages circuit; that company gutted out the theater and remodeled it, giving an entirely new facade. In succeeding years (certainly by 1941), newspaper advertisements referred to it also as the Pantage Theatre and there is at least one photo showing the “s” at the end painted over, suggesting that at some point it ceased to be a Pantages operation.

Paramount eventually assumed control of the theater and operated through its subsidiary, Wilby-Kincey, until about 1946, when it became an independent operation. At that point it became known as the Birmingham Theater and served a predominantly African-American audience. It was razed in 1950; the site then became a parking lot.

Contributed by Christopher Walczak

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

This webpage includes pictures of the Birmingham Theater under its various names (as well as some of other Birmingham, Alabama theaters). A picture of the theater, with the “s' in the Pantages vertical blacked out can be seen here, and here is a picture of the theater as the Birmingham. Note how the theater went from having an infamous “colored balcony” to a theater “exclusively” for African Americans.

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