Lamar Theatre

1716 Lamar Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38114

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Iceberg on October 13, 2017 at 1:55 am

The Lamar closed as a regular movie theater in 1966, I think, and reopened a year or so later in 1967 as an adult/porn theater. It closed as an adult theater sometime in the mid 70’s. It reopened as a more or less regular movie theater around 1979 and operated for about a year.

michaelbeck on March 19, 2017 at 3:34 pm

I remember all the older teens (makeouts) sat in the left rear corner of the auditorium. And the double clocks in the ticket kiosk: “Time Now – Time Out” then run back to the car and tell when you need to be picked up.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm

During the late 1980’s the Lamar’s side doors (on the side away from the cross street)were so rotten that they had fallen out of the door frames, leaving the theatre open to -ahem- exploration. The building was ruined, the roof mostly gone, however, enough remained of the interior to know what it had alooked like. The seat end standards were ornate, but every other row of seats had been removed – apparently to facilitate the live portion of the adult entertainment shown in its last days. There were two organ chambers at stage level, one on each side of the small stage. No sign of the organ of course. No dressing rooms or stage facilites. There was a boiler room under the stage. The auditorium side walls had simple plaster moldings creating large rectangular panels.

Coming in from the front doors, there was a very small lobby with floor sloping up. Doors opened into the standee area with a cross aisle to exit doors at each end. There was no balcony.

The biggest surprise was up in the projection booth: it was obvious that the wall between booth and auditorium had been an exterior wall – there were bits of stone moldings and details which would never have been placed there just for the projectionist to look at. If you look at the photos of the front, you’ll see an arched top window, just above the marquee. That opens into the projection booth. The small window on the angled portion was the generator room. Directly below the booth (main floor) were two small restrooms, an office, the concession stand (later addition) and of course, the tiny “lobby.” That front 10-15 feet seems to have been added to and existing building. What was it previously? Don’t know. Theatre? Storefront? Couldn’t say.

spectrum on December 16, 2010 at 4:22 am

2010 Google street view: Still boarded up, but the entire exterior has been given a fresh coat of white paint and the marquee is intact.

moonrock on February 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

I spent many nights at the Lamar during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I lived up the street and was one of the neighborhood regulars. Normally, I could be found at Mr. Crawford’s poolhall or Reaves' Drugstore, both across the street from the theatre. I met my first wife at the consession, where she was employed by the Shapiro owners. Her name was Dee Dee Weaver, and she worked with Tasha and Nancy Steelman, who sold tickets. In the late evenings, after the Shapiros collected the reciepts and departed, all the local guys were allowed to come in and watch the late show without paying. Back then we had no money, and the manager —I can’t remember his name— would tell the girls to admit us for free. My buddy, Clint Combs, was sweet on Tasha, and I liked Dee Dee, so we were there most nights. I later married Dee Dee and we had three children in 34 years of marriage.

Kenneth Stiverson

monika on March 14, 2008 at 5:29 pm

I thought I’d come check the new comments on the Lamar after watching “Mystery Train” again this morning, there are some very beautiful shots of the theatre in the movie. I am pleased to read that the theatre is being used/is going to be used again in a new way.

kencmcintyre on March 18, 2006 at 8:59 pm

Here is another pre-restoration photo:

JackCoursey on February 1, 2006 at 11:11 pm

Here is a photo from January 2006 of the Lamar looking the best it has in years. There has been some discussion about converting into a recording studio. Great to see some effort is being made to restore at least the exterior.

shoeshoe14 on December 10, 2005 at 1:56 am

I was watching the “Deep Throat” documentary and it was mentioned in the movie, especially with mafia influence. They cut to a picture from the side of the dilapidated building and marquee.

unihikid on April 7, 2005 at 4:03 am

this was also one of the theatres to be bought by stax before the capitol,the lamar was put up for lease at the time and jim stewart decided on the capitol instead.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 16, 2005 at 5:05 pm

Monika, The Lamar operated as a porno house into the late 1970’s. Its last incarnation was a short-lived and underfunded “family entertainment” venue. When I last saw the theatre in the mid-1990’s there was no sign of fire damage. It was a wreck, but not burned.
Will Dunklin

monika on February 16, 2005 at 3:09 pm

Does anyone know if the theatre ever opened again after getting set on fire while “Deep Throat” played there in the 1970s?

MagicLantern on February 14, 2005 at 1:48 am

There’s some footage of this closed theatre in the recent documentary, “Inside Deep Throat” (2005).

gorkipk on December 3, 2004 at 5:07 pm

I went there almost every weekend from 1960-1961. I attended Bellevue Jr High and lived a couple of blocks away from the theatre.

If memory serves me correctly the theatre was run by the Sahpiro family. I remember the cashier’s name was Tasha Steelman and she was built better than the theatre.

There were always 3 features on weekends with “Selected” short subjects and plent of trailers.

Some of the films I remeber are “The Hypnotic Eye”, “Battle In Outter Space” and a re-release of Abbot and Costello’s “Jack and the Beanstalk”.

It was a great hangout for young teenies. If you got lucky you could put your arm around a girls shoulder or even hold hands.

It was a fun and innocent place to go and I go there in my mind all the time.
Bill Elliott

Backseater on September 22, 2004 at 7:00 am

Went there once in 1963 to see a Tarzan movie with Gordon Scott and Sean Connery as the villain. Even then I remember it as pretty seedy.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on February 18, 2004 at 2:03 pm

The Lamar dates back to the silent movie era. There is a small stage and a small organ chamber left and right of the proscenium at stage level. The arched window visible in the photo above opens into the projection booth. In the projection booth there are vestiges of an older facade, indicating that the booth and lobby are additions to an older theater. When last seen in 1990 the roof was nearly gone, the side exit doors falling out of the walls. Every other row of seats had been removed for the live part of the prono show which was the Lamar’s last use.

The facade of the Lamar appears in the film “Mystery Train.”

William on December 6, 2003 at 12:42 am

The Lamar Theatre is located at 1716 Lamar Ave. and it seated 1020 people.