Harlem Theatre

903 E. Broadway,
West Memphis, AR 72301

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Harlem Theatre

The Harlem Theatre was built for African-American patrons, opening in 1944, and operated until the late-1960’s. Today the building is occupied by grocery store and delicatessen.

Contributed by Joe Vogel

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dallasmovietheaters on September 2, 2016 at 3:13 pm

West Memphis had no movie theater other than a short-lived airdrome in the early sound era until the Crittenden Theatre opened in 1937 by J. Jackson Rhodes and Crittenden Amusement Co. The Crittenden Theatre grabbed national headlines for being a main outlet for films rejected by infamous censor Lloyd T. Binford, the Memphis censor who would censor films which had persons of color in the same scenes as white performers.

Rhodes realized he’d hit pay dirt as people ventured across the bridge from Memphis, TN to West Memphis, AR. With a censor banning African American films, Rhodes would then create the Harlem Theatre in 1945 as Binfordized films would be of interest to the African American community. With workers helping in WW2-related factories, Rhodes got the approval to build the theater despite war shortages. He ended up months behind because there simply were no available theatre seats.

Sadly, the movie marketplace would never be the same in West Memphis post-Binford the Crittenden, Avon, Sunset Drive-In and the Harlem would all close.

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