Center Theater

32 West Adams Street,
Jacksonville, FL 32202

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marinermc on May 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

The description mentions movie visitation as a “high-society” event. I would argue it was anything but — movie-going was, and still is, a democratic pursuit and at the time (as it is today) ticket prices were (are) much less than those granting admission to legitimate theaters. I agree, though, that audiences dressed up for the occasion, but only because of the inherent societal microcosm of a theater. People you know might see you and be impressed by your new hat. Also, it’s simple imitation by intimidation: the interiors were often elaborate, thus the audience tended to oblige.

glenjay on September 2, 2006 at 9:52 am

I saw ‘Ben Hur,’ “West Side Story,‘ and 'Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ at the Center Theater—and many others in the 50s and 60s. The arcade was cool to a youngster—you could come in off two entirely different streets—and I remember (I hope accurately) that both box offices were functioning in the 50s.
After the 1960 renovation, the Center specialized briefly in ‘road show’ attractions, that being one of the dumber attempts to compete with television. ‘Prestige’ movies like ‘Ben Hur’ and "Flower Drum Song' were held back from national release for weeks or months, then opened in smaller cities with reserved-seating and other kinds of fake urban elegance.
Ironically, what really did enable movies to compete with television—‘adult’ material (at first, dirty words)—arrived with ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ in 1966. My friend and I made a point of going to see that, at the Center, on the afternoon of the first day, for fear that the authorities would shut the movie down, as had happened elsewhere in the South.
The renovation ruined whatever architectural distinction the theater had. The Center was ‘modern,’ comfortable, and bland.

StanleyNorton on April 10, 2006 at 7:43 am

I remember going to the Arcade alot during the late forties and fifties. i remember seeing vaudeville
shows in the early 50’s along with double feature films. Also I went to see On the Waterfront as a
First Run. When the theatre became the Center — the first film was BEN HUR.

William on November 25, 2003 at 1:49 pm

The Arcade Theatre was located at 32 W. Adams and it seated 1580 people.