Warner Theatre

52 S. Main Street,
Memphis, TN 38103

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DavidZornig on May 1, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Mid `50’s photo added courtesy of the Tennessee Back Roads Facebook page.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on May 26, 2013 at 6:49 am

Built by Alexander Pantages, his eldest son Rodney was the general manager of the circuit.

When the theater opened on February 28, 1921, Jack Claxton was in charge and J. Lloyd Dearth his assistant. By that summer Jack Quinlan was the manager and then J. Lloyd Dearth. On October 7, 1925 A.B. Morrison became manager for at least two years.

vastor on July 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm

The rest of the 1943 photos have been posted. Two more views of the auditorium from Memphis Room of the Memphis Public Library. Used with permission.

vastor on January 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Thanks so much.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

The photo of the facade I uploaded was originally part of the biennial exhibit of the Washington State chapter of the AIA, held in Seattle in April, 1922. It was included in a portfolio of photos from the exhibit published in the May, 1922, issue of the San Francisco-based journal The Architect and Engineer. The magazine is in the collection of the San Francisco Public Library, which scanned and uploaded the issue to the Internet Archive.

This was the only photo of the Pantages in the portfolio, though there might have been others in the exhibit itself. The magazine does not credit the source of the photo, but it was most likely provided for the exhibit by the office of the architect, B. Marcus Priteca, who was a member of the Washington chapter of the AIA.

If you’d like a larger version of the scan, go to this link. You can enlarge the scan by clicking on the + icon in the toolbar at the lower right corner of the page. The scan can be made quite large before printing or digital artifacts begin showing up.

vastor on January 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Joe: where did that beautiful photo of the Pantages come from? It is much better than the one the Theatre Historical Society owns (and I have that print from them). There weren’t any more, were there? BTW, in the THS collection from Terry Helgesen is where the 1916 date came up. Maybe, B Marcus Priteca was given the contract that year and there were construction delays. There also exist beautiful photos of the block with and without the theatre.

vastor on July 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Also note, in the Life Magazine photo, the “Loew’s” on the Loew’s State vertical has been covered up because the theatre had been sold and was now called just the State. The sides of the marquee used the vertical for the Loew’s name but the front had a panel which covered the neon reading “State Theatre.”

vastor on July 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Joe’s remark would explain a theatre seating 2300 built into a half-block depth lot, backing into the alley. The Pantages had practically no lobby, just a foyer, and a canopy that ran the entire width of the building. That’s why the later marquee was so long. Another alley ran down the south side, perhaps that’s where the negro entrance was. I just missed this one as I was just becoming interested in movie palaces when I saw it coming down. I did see some slides, later, from the bank that bought it. The dome ribs and the proscenium were reinforced concrete—it took forever to bring it down. It also seemed to be the only true concrete proscenium arch (of any size) in a Memphis theatre—the others were either oblong (Loew’s Palace, Lyceum, Majestic) or had an arch with drapery to change the shape of the actual oblong opening (Orpheum, Loew’s State).

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 18, 2011 at 4:23 am

Joe, you might also remember that the Memphis Loew’s State (q.v.) auditorium had been built into the shell of an existing warehouse.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm

The September 9, 1919, issue of Brick and Clay Record has an item about the start of construction on the Pantages project:

“Work has started at Memphis on the Pantages Theatre being erected by a syndicate on S. Main St. near the corner of Monroe in the building formerly occupied by Van Vleet Mansfield Drug Co. The Hoist Bldg. will be removed in part and a very modern structure will take its place. It was erected in 1891. Sando and Gilbertson, of Seattle, Wash, took out the permit.”
It sounds like at least part of the Pantages incorporated a pre-existing building. That building might be the source of the 1916 construction date.

There appear to have been some serious delays on this project. There is a report in the May, 1920, issue of American Stone Trade saying that the Pantages Theatre in Memphis was then under construction, but that’s several months after the report in Brick and Clay Recored. The July issue of the same publication said that the project was “…nearing the finishing and decorative stage.” But then the magazine item I cited in my previous comment about the project nearing completion was from February, 1921. That’s a total construction time of almost a year and half. Big theater projects were typically completed in a few months during that era.

vastor on July 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I have the date on the Pantages as 1916, will check on this.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 16, 2010 at 2:39 am

The February, 1921, issue of a trade journal called The Clay-Worker said that the new Pantages Theatre then under construction in Memphis would be opened “…within a few weeks.”

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on February 27, 2010 at 6:03 am


The above listed address is about 10 blocks to far north.

The theater was on South Main, between Monroe and Union, I think on the east side of the street.

The exact address was 52 South Main.


Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on November 24, 2008 at 6:49 am

Also visible in the deeper background on the left is the vertical sign for the Lowe’s State. Almost directly across from the Warner, the building nearer to us from Dreifus, is the Majestic, long since converted to retail, but it is still standing (q.v.). The Strand should be visible just this side of the State and the Malco’s large vertical sign (nee Orpheum)should be visible in the deep right background – though I’m not seeing either of these last two. The Warner went down not long after this photo.

kencmcintyre on November 21, 2008 at 4:28 pm

The Warner is on the left in this October 1968 photo from Life Magazine:

bbrown1 on October 2, 2008 at 5:53 pm

At the link below is a night time photo of the Warner Theater from 1960:

View link

stonehuntr on April 23, 2008 at 7:39 am

An article about the Pantages Theater in Memphis, and its current manager, appeared on p. 18 of the Tri-State Musical Journal, Dec. 1, 1927, published in Memphis. To see an image of this page, go to this link: View link

On that page is a picture of the inside of the theater. To see a larger image of that picture, go to this link: View link

MarlinMackley on December 2, 2007 at 4:51 pm

For those interested, the Robert Morton organ in the Memphis Warner Theatre was a 2m/14r, which made it the largest t/o, by rank count, in Memphis theatres. I aquired the bits from the Oberg estate, and still have a few pieces. Bill found the organ ravaged by water damage and scavangers, and salvaged only three partial string bass octaves, one 7 r unit chest, a monster 16' Tuba, and a few Kinura pipes. He had a bad photo of the inside of the theatre, but I never found it.

Patsy on August 3, 2006 at 9:38 am

It seems that Memphis decided to lose their Warner which is pretty much the case with the City of Nashville as I’ve read about many of their theatres that are now gone so thank goodness that the City of Knoxville chose to keep and restore their Tennessee! Congratulations Knoxville!

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 13, 2006 at 9:48 am

This is’t Organ Treasures, but since we’re on the subject: the Robert Morton organ was removed by Bill Oberg before the building came down. At his death (c. 1980) it was broken up for parts.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 12, 2005 at 4:32 pm

The architect was B. Marcus Priteca. The Pantages opened in 1920 or 1921 to compete with Loew’s two new Thomas Lamb theatres – both within a block of this hall. The newspaper reviews of the opening were glowing in their review of the decor and the fine acoustics.

Backseater on September 21, 2004 at 11:01 pm

Saw “Dr. Strangelove” there in 1963. Also later Sean Connery and Jean Seberg in “A Fine Madness.”

William on February 20, 2004 at 7:38 am

The Warner Theatre seated 2300 people.