Ritz Civic Center

306 W. Main Street,
Blytheville, AR 72315

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cftompkins3
cftompkins3 on October 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Thanks so much to James Honecut for his most descriptive, nostalgic, and accurate word picture of the Ritz (but posted on the Roxy Theatre page). I remember all the people he mentioned (as well as James). One minor corretion: the manager of the Ritz, Roxy, and Starvue Drive-in from Mr. Mac’s death until Mrs. Mac passed away (when all their theatres were sold to the Malco chain) was Audreanel Freeman, my grandmother. Yes, indeed, she did cut quite a figure with that cigarette holder and jet black hair.

James R. Honecutt
James R. Honecutt on March 20, 2012 at 2:46 am

The Roxy was a second run, sister theater to the Ritz. The building was owned by Mr. Simon and he operated it for awhile after the Malco chain obtained the Ritz and let the lease expire on the Roxy. The Roxy was later torn down but I had left Blytheville and I don’t know the year. I do not know if the Roxy was ever called the Gem but I doubt it. I remember the Gem was located on the SE corner of Main and Broadway in the same block as the Roxy.

James R. Honecutt
James R. Honecutt on March 20, 2012 at 2:38 am

The Ritz burned twice, once in 1931 and was rebuilt then in 1950 it burned again and that is when McClutchen bought the adjoining buildings and built the Ritz. The grand openig I attended was in 1951.

James R. Honecutt
James R. Honecutt on March 20, 2012 at 2:38 am

The Ritz burned twice, once in 1931 and was rebuilt then in 1950 it burned again and that is when McClutchen bought the adjoining buildings and built the Ritz. The grand openig I attended was in 1951.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

Here is a fresh link to the 1951 Boxoffice article about the Ritz Theatre. The impression I get from the article is that the old Ritz was completely razed to make way for the new Ritz. The article doesn’t mention a fire in the Ritz prior to its demolition, though other sources mention a fire in 1931.

This photo shows the Ritz before the 1951 rebuilding. The Boxoffice article says that the adjacent space in the building was occupied by a shoe store and a grocers prior to rebuilding. Doubling the theater’s width would have required at the very least the complete demolition of the interior, and at least the center section of the old facade would have to have come down as well, to provide for the new center entrance. If all that was coming down, then the roof must have been removed too. That adds up to virtually an entirely new building between the old side walls.

The entry for Uzzell S. Branson in the 1956 edition of the AIA’s American Architects Directory lists the Ritz Theatre as a 1951 project. Our description currently says that he designed a 1936 remodeling of the Ritz, but this web page says that the Ritz was severely damaged by fire in 1931, and reopened in October that year after a $30,000 reconstruction job. It’s possible that Branson was the architect for that project as well, as his practice was established in Blytheville in 1923, according to the AIA directory.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 11:55 am

Opening night at the Ritz (Three Guys Named Mike) with photos, plus article on the theatre from Boxoffice magazine, March 19, 1951:
View link

James R. Honecutt
James R. Honecutt on May 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm

I grew up in Blytheville and I worked for the RGR theater chain while attending high school in the 1960s. During the 1950’s the town had 5 theaters. The Mox on West Main st was a second run theater operated by Mr. Moxley, the Ritz was about the 500 block of Main and was the premier theater, the Gem was a second run theater located at the corner of Main and Broadway and the Roxy was on East Main St. We had another called the Savoy which was a colored theater… By the time I worked in the movies in 1960 the Mox and Gem were closed. I think the Gem may have been the “Home” theater at one time. The lease on the Roxy was allowed to expire and the theater was run for awhile by the building’s owner Mr. Simon. The Ritz burned in 1949 or 1950 and I remember the opening night of the rebuilt Ritz (Feb 1951) We had high school bands, search lights and the movie star Ward Bond attended. The marquee loads of neon including chase red, blue and green tubes. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 30, 2009 at 1:23 am

This is one result of a Google search for Ritz Theater. :)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 21, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Google search for Ritz? LOL

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 6, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I was about to write up the Roxy and add it until I came across something interesting. See the Home Theater listing for what I found.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 30, 2009 at 12:29 am

Here is a recent photo of the Ritz.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 10, 2009 at 2:36 am

There is an interior photo on this page. The correct address is 306 W. Main Street.
http://tinyurl.com/nwl4hw

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 10, 2009 at 2:29 am

This is from the Blytheville Courier News in February 1951:

Moving picture patrons who smoke no longer will have to wait patiently until the show is over or leave their seats between features to enjoy a cigarette in the lounges. Patrons who wish to smoke during the showing of pictures in the newly-remodeled Ritz Theater that will have its formal opening here tomorrow may use a special smoking loge.

This is an innovation in the motion picture business in Blytheville. Fire-resistant construction of the new building has made possible the use of such a smoking loge. Fire Chief Roy Head has termed the structure “one of the safest anywhere” from the standpoint of fire resistance.

The smoking loge, which will seat approximately 150 persons, is located upstairs and occupies half the balcony area. Entrance to the smoking loge is located immediately to the patron’s right as he enters the main portion of the lobby. Carpeted stairs lead to the smoking loge, which is equipped with the same velour-upholstered seats as are found in the downstairs part of the theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 3, 2009 at 8:47 pm

The Ritz Theater is listed in 1955 with 726 seats.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 29, 2007 at 3:21 pm

This is a photo of the Ritz in Blytheville.

teecee
teecee on August 31, 2005 at 10:31 am

A Wurlitzer organ, opus 1187, was installed in the Ritz Theatre on 10/26/1925.