Southway Theatre

9736 South Broadway,
St. Louis, MO 63125

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Southway Theatre

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The Southway Theatre opened in 1938. The theater, located on South Broadway in the Lemay district, was direct compitition to the Longwood Theatre just three blocks to its east. The Longwood Theatre had opened two years prior to the Southway Theatre, by the Komm Theatres of St. Louis.

The Southway Theatre, like all Wehrenberg Theatres, was a well run and well maintained theater. The Southway Theatre was built more or less in a stadium style with all seating on one floor with the floor sloped so that there was no obstruction of anyone seated in front of you. The theater itself was not long but was rather wide with three aisle running from back to front. It had columns running about 10 feet apart along each side of the theater with very ornate gold leaf scones on each column. The lights would dim during the movie but the shadow from the scones would burst on the wall above giving a tree like appearance.

With its large marquee and vertical sign that rose above the theater it was very impressive coming around the bend in South Broadway into the Lemay District. The lights and neon gave off a colorful effect in the night sky before you reached the theatre.

Attendance fell off with the populatiry of television and then the twin theatres started popping up at the nearby South County Mall (GCC’s South County Cinema and Mid Americas South City Twin) thus dooming the Southway Theatre. The Southway Theatre closed in April 1962

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

HenryLau
HenryLau on May 21, 2004 at 11:21 am

My name is Henry Lau and the Southway Theater was originally owned by my family. The original building was built probably about 1917, but not as a theater. I believe it was originally a tavern; it definitely was a tavern in the 1930’s The building was bought about 1937 by I.E.L. Inc. The corporation members were Irvin Lau, Ella Marty (nee Lau), and Leo Lau. Irvin Lau was my father. They renovated the building lowering the floor to slope so that the view was unobstructed.

The theater was opened in 1938. I have a picture dated May 1938 showing the building before the marquee was added and a sign anouncing the opening. I also have a picture of the building taken about 1953 showing the marquee. The theater was leased out (perhaps to the Wherenberg brothers, I don’t remember) from about 1939 to 1954. My father, brother and I lived in an apartment on the south side above the theater from about 1946 to 1960. My uncle Leo Lau and his wife Marie occupied the apartment on the north side until Leo’s death in 1978.

JAlex
JAlex on January 2, 2005 at 11:08 am

My records show the Southway opened on Nov. 5, 1938. By the end of the year the theatre was leased by Fred Wehrenberg, as well as the Lemay Theatre which the Lau family was interested in.

HenryLau
HenryLau on January 2, 2005 at 11:23 am

Thanks for the update.

The Lemay theater was indeed owned by my family as well. They built the original building in 1927 and then rebuilt it after a devastating fire in 1932. After the lease to the Wherenbergs ran out(about 1954), my aunt Ella Marty (nee Lau) ran the Lemay until sometime in the 1960’s. I worked there on the candy counter and later as an usher during the 50’s

Henry Lau

JamesGrebe
JamesGrebe on March 25, 2005 at 2:05 pm

Mr. Lau,
Do you have any interior shots of the theatre?
JamesGrebe

HenryLau
HenryLau on March 25, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Mr. Grebe,

Sorry, I have only exterior shots of the Southway. I do have an old newspaper article with a couple of shots of parts of the interior of the Lemay. They were taken when the theater was remodeled in 1984 and are not very clear.

JamesGrebe
JamesGrebe on March 26, 2005 at 4:41 am

OH WELL,
THANKS FIOR RESPONDING.
jIM

HenryLau
HenryLau on June 26, 2005 at 11:19 am

Charles,

I have a couple of photos of the Southway, one taken in 1938 before it opened, and one in 1953. The “add a photo” feature to this site doesn’t work, so I would be interested in knowing how make the pictures available as you did (if it is fairly simple. I am only barely computer tolerant).

Thanks,

Henry Lau

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 13, 2008 at 5:21 pm

This is the current occupant:

http://www.plasti-tek.com/

Here is an item from Boxoffice magazine, February 1955:

ST. LOUIS-The Southway Theater in the Lemay section was reopened Friday under the management of Lloyd G. Weston, who leased the house from the Lau family. The Southway, dark for many months, was formerly operated under a lease by the Fred Wehrenberg circuit.

JAlex
JAlex on December 26, 2011 at 11:46 am

Last ad for the Southway I could find dates from May 1956.

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