Moneta Theatre

105 Morris Street E.,
Sweetwater, TN 37874

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The Moneta Theatre was opened prior to 1917. In David Bowers “Encyclopedia of Automated Musical Instruments” p. 551 mentions the installation of a Reproduco organ (probably a photoplayer) at the ‘Booth’ Theatre, Sweetwater, Tennessee. There is no date on that reference, but certainly before 1926. The Moneta Theatre operated as a silent movie theatre into 1931. It had closed by 1932.

Contributed by Will Dunklin

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 29, 2014 at 4:48 pm

The theater that got the Reproduco was probably not called the Booth Theatre. It was probably called either the Moneta Theatre or the Gay Theatre. Items in trade journals in 1926 and 1927 say that a Greeneville-based company called Booth Enterprises operated the Moneta Theatre in Sweetwater. The trades name several theaters operated by Booth Entrprises, but none of them are called the Booth Theatre. Reproduco probably had the name of the company rather than the name of the theater on its paperwork for this sale.

A September 4, 1926, item in Motion Picture News said that Booth Enterprises planned to build new theaters in Greenville, Newport, and Sweetwater. The new Greenville house, the Palace, did get built and opened in 1927. I haven’t found anything else about the other two projects, but a Sweetwater tourist brochure (PDF here) says that a movie house called the Gay Theatre was built in Sweetwater in 1929, and operated until the Cherokee Theatre was built at another site in 1953. The Gay Theatre might have been the Booth Enterprises house.

The brochure says that the Gay Theatre was on part of the site now occupied by the Sweetwater branch of Regions Bank. The bank is at 401 N. Main Street. The theater might not have had that exact address, but the block is only about 200 feet long so it would have been very close to that number.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm

As recently as 2010, a live music venue called the Moneta Theatre was in operation in Sweetwater. It was at 105 Morris Street East, which is the storefront in the middle of this block-long building. It is currently the location of Ole Glory Antiques. I haven’t found any early documentation that was the actual location of the original Moneta Theatre, but CinemaTour uses that address for it, and a couple of items in The Advocate & Democrat, the local newspaper, referred to the modern music venue as the “…historic Moneta Theatre in downtown Sweetwater.”

The Moneta Theatre was in operation by 1917, when it was offered for sale in this ad from the October 6 issue of The Moving Picture World:

“EXCELLENT INVESTMENT— Theater seating 220, two machines, rectifier, large five-piece Wurlitzer orchestrion. In town 3,000; no competition; three large industries; also Tennessee Military Institute. High class trade, good patronage from neighboring towns and country. Reference, any citizen. Lowest price, $2,250.00. Moneta Theater, Sweetwater, Tenn.”
The later Gay Theatre was located on the west side of the short block of Main Street north of Morris Street, so it was very near the Moneta’s location.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on April 16, 2014 at 7:20 am

Joe, thanks for filling in the missing information! The trade journal ad I’m starting with is filled with the semi-accurate information you mention – company name or company owner’s name instead of an actual theatre name. Leads down some interesting rabbit holes. Regarding the Booth Company, there was at least one Booth Theatre in East Tennessee; it opened in Knoxville in 1928.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 16, 2014 at 12:16 pm

There was also a 900-seat Booth Theatre in Chattanooga, listed as closed in the FDYs from 1931 through 1933, and no longer listed after that. The Knoxville Booth (800 seats) was open through the whole decade.

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