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Random capitalization, literally set in granite.
Robert, Good that it’s open and running and has had a major renovation, but there was no masking? They spend millions on a restoration and don’t have anyone who understands Presentation 101? <<>> Since you were there, how have they changed the seating so that it’s roughly 30% of the original capacity?
There is an advertisement for The Princess Theatre, Columbia, Tennessee, from Crescent Amusement for the motion picture “The Heritage of the Desert” with Bebe Daniels in the Nashville Tennessean newspaper on March 2, 1924, page 43.
There is a 1 paragraph mention of the Bell Theatre opening in the Nashville Banner, Tuesday September 7, 1915, page 14
SPRINGFIELD’S NEW THEATRE
Special to the Banner
Springfield, Tenn., September 7,-
Springfield’s new theatre, the Bell, opened for business Saturday. (September 4, 1915 ed.) The new playhouse is operated by M. Sherry and Steve Holland of Nashville. Although it is to be chiefly a motion picture and vaudeville house, it has been equipped for road shows also.
The Vitrolite front was intact and in good condition up to about 1980, though the theatre had been closed for about 20 years. The marquee was gone in the 1960s. Likewise there were no “blue mirrors extending forty feet in height” at that point, though there was a stylized monogram P in the upper center.
The Nashville Banner newspaper, October 5, 1926 page 12 reports:
Lebanon, Tenn. Oct 5 - (Special.) The Princess theater, Lebanon’s new $50,000 theater, built by the Crescent Amusement Company of Nashville opened here Monday night with Colleen Moore in “It Must Be Love.”
It is claimed by the management that the new theater is the most complete and the most artistic theater in any town in the state the size of Lebanon. The seating capacity is 800, a balcony being provided for colored people seating 150.The theater is provided with upholstered seats and special lighting effects and cooling system. A new heating plant has also been installed.
John Hatcher, manager of the Howard theater (about a block north, ed) for the past two years, will be in active charge of the new Princess.
The Nashville Tennessean newspaper for Sunday, February 21, 1926, page 13 reported on a conference of Crescent Amusement Company theater managers with company president Tony Sudekum. The group photo lists the attendees and their respective theaters.
The manager of the Springfield, Tennessee Princess Theater is listed as Vernon Rinehart.
From the Nashville morning newspaper “The Tennessean,” September 6, 1927 page 3
NEW PRINCESS THEATER AT CLEVELAND OPENED
Special Musical Program is given by Cole
Cleveland, Tenn., Sept. 5 - The new Princess theater was officially opened today. The picture presented is “Convoy” and there was a special musical program by Leon Cole of Nashville on the fine, golden voice Kimball pipe organ.
This addition to Cleveland’s business houses is bing made by the Crescent Amusements Company of Nashville of which Tony Sudekum is president.
Attention to the theatre is commanded by the attritive front of the building with its electric sign of 600 lights. The sign includes three in one, the largest across the front of the marquisa (sic!) and one across each end. In the lobbies an artistic effect has been introduced by the decorators. The outside lobby with tiled floor has walls decorated in harmonies colors.
The inside lobby harmonizes with the outer lobby in decorative scheme and is lighted by chandeliers of bronze design. The motif of the interior decorations is similar to those used in the leading theatres of America carrying out the ideas of the Crescent Amusement Company’s own decor * -ator. Mural decorations are in * panel effect with the outstanding color being blue. The ceiling is *(word indecipherable, possibly ‘festooned’) in brown and the lighting is both from ceiling and candle effects for the walls, making a most artistic arrangement.
The wings are hung with heavy blue drapes, trimmed with dull gold fringe. Similar drapes are used for the stage curtain. The seats are the latest improved theatre chairs with cushions and backs of leather and are the last word in comfort. An orchestra pit provides space for both the organ and an orchestra.
The Princess was erected by the Summer Construction Company for the Crescent Amusement Company at a cost of $100,000.
From Nashville’s morning newspaper “The Tennessean” August 7, 1927 page 7:
New Sudekum Playhouse Nears Completion
Cleveland, Tenn., Aug. 6 - With the arrival here of the $10,000 pipe organ for the new theater being built by the Crescent Amusement Company of Nashville the handsome show house being erected takes a forward step towards its completion for a formal opening on Labor Day September 5.
Tony and Harry Sudekum, president and secretary by the company, were in Cleveland Wednesday being accompanied by the company’s interior decorator, who started work on the interior of the building immediately. As soon as the interior is completed the organ will be installed by R. J, Hatch, expert organ builder, who manages all work of this kind for the Crescent company.
The organ is a two manuel with electric action and has, in addition to the regular stops chimes, xylophone, orchestral bells, and harp attachment.
And while we’re at it, I found that the Capitol’s organ was built by local pipe organ serviceman James Rufus Hatch. Crescent Amusement and Tony Sudekum apparently never invested in top brand organs. Mr. Hatch had moved to Nashville in 1922 from Saint-Hyacinthe Quebec where he learned the organ trade. It is reasonable to assume he worked for Casavant Freres located there, which was (and still is) one of the most respected pipe organ building companies in North America. However, there is precious little record of any work that Mr. Hatch did beyond this one installation.
Based on the newspaper accounts that the Capitol was destroyed by fire in the early hours of Saturday March 16, 1929, the last film to play there would have been the now lost silent film “Dream of Love” starring Joan Crawford and Nils Asther. The newspaper advertisement on Friday March 15 indicates it was accompanied by “Hoods Orchestra.”
Excerpts from the Nashville Banner newspaper, March 16, 1929, page 1
UPTOWN FIRE CAUSES DAMAGE OF $300,000
Capitol Theater Destroyed – Station WBAW and Other Tenants of Odd Fellows’ Building Sustain Losses – Firemen Hurt
Damage caused by the fire which started about 1 a.m. Saturday beneath the stage of the Capitol theater, at Sixth and Church, and ate its way through the four-story Odd Fellows building, may exceed $300,000.
The entire interior of the Capitol theater proper was destroyed leaving only the steel cross beams of the theater above the mass of charred debris that covered the first floor of the building. At 6 a.m. thin lines of smoke still arose from the maze of wreckage piled over the seats of the theater, and firemen, despite the danger of the floors above caving in, were digging through the tangled mass, in an effort to put out the smouldering (sic) embers.
The rear section of the building was burned to the fourth floor, leaving the second and third floors hanging perilously above the interior of the theater, supported by buckled beams and framework, most of which was partially burned…
…Capitol Theater, leased by the Crescent Amusement Company, including Vitaphone equipment, ventilating system and $35,000 pipe organ, damaged $100,000…
…The organ, one of the largest in the South (typical hyperbole, ed.) fell a victim to the fire shortly after it started. It was valued at $35,000 and was practically demolished. The long pipes, running almost two stories, were standing, but were bent and charred. The Vitaphone equipment, recently installed, was demolished, leaving only a shadow of black framework. The damage to this, together with the dame to the ventilating system of the theater, was estimated by Tony Sudedum at $90,000. The projecting equipment of the theater received considerable water damage and is said to be unfit for further use. Considering the equipment and accessories, the damage was said to be at least $100,000…
…Firemen were of the opinion that the building may be condemned as several of the steel beams had buckled, leaving the brick walls of the building without strong support. Parts of the upper floors swung downward, hanging apparently in the air, supported by two-by-fours that creaked under the strain.
The seats of the theater were literally covered with the fixtures that had adorned the theater, burned and charred framework that had crashed upon them, and with office supplies of all kinds that had tumbled with the floors.
Although origin of the fire is not known it is believed that it started from defective wiring beneath the stage of the theater. The stage, with the organ of the theater, were the first victims of the flames. No official statement on the cause of the fire was given out, but firemen of the first companies to arrive at the scene expressed the belief that it was the wiring under the stage that had first become ignited…
Originally the marquee had a flat extension over the storefront to the east. It didn’t have a letterboard on it. What I remember is green and white steel with horizontal neon. The building’s upper story was clad in steel similar to what’s on the walls in the lobby. That all came down sometime after Martin left the building.
In context, in the late 1970s a couple of buildings on the square which had been “modernized” in the 1950s, had their cladding removed to reveal the victoria detailing. Unfortunately someone decided that the cladding on the Capitol and nearby Princess needed to come off too, not realizing there was no ornate brickwork underneath. Both buildings have since been painted to make some effort to replicate the original design.
August 18, 1971, Memphis Press Scimitar, (Memphis, Tennessee) page 39
(photo of the Princess and 3 addition buildings to its north, with windows removed and scaffold-like guards erected over the sidewalks. )
Main Street Landmarks Are Being Leveled
Memphis Housing Authority has begun razing buildings on Main Between Gayoso and Linden under its urban renewal program. These landmarks are being torn down on the west side of Main north of Beale – including the old Princess theatre, the old Monarch Hotel and Dixie Finance Co., The area is planned for new commercial development.
Razing on Main Called Too Slow
By Orville Hancock, Press-Scimitar Staff Writer
All of Main Street between Gayoso and Linden eventually will be leveled in an Urban Renewal Project except for a few buildings, but the rate of demolition isn’t satisfactory to some of the businessmen downtown.
Neither is the razing satisfactory to Paul Borda, Memphis Housing Authority board chairman. He asked MHA officials today to try to do more on Main in removal of vacant buildings. “These buildings that are vacant and boarded up are drawing many complaints from merchants” Borda said. “You can understand why, because the shoppers are afraid to walk past these boarded up structures with their air of desolation. Especially at night, they don’t want to walk past.”
Borda said he hoped demolition of the buildings slated to be razed for urban renewal could be speeded up and maybe the sites leveled and used for parking to bring more people into Main.
Randall Johnson, director of planning for urban renewal, said all buildings slated for demolition are expected to be leveled by March next year (1972 ed.). However, the contract sets the razing deadline for December of the same year.
Even though the contract is for December, we expect to have the buildings down by March if not held up by unforeseen circumstances,” Johnson said.
McCall is a key street in urban renewal plans. It will be extended from Main to Second where it will join with a loop street to included Main, Handy and Linden.
Johnson said buildings on McCall will be removed first. All structures on Main from Gayoso to Linden will be torn down except Goldsmith’s, Shainberg’s, Haverty’s, Malco Theatre and of course, the new Memphis Light Gas and Water Division building which was part of the urban renewal plan in the first place. It is the first structure to be built in the renewal area.
Johnson said vacant buildings can be torn down fairly soon if they don’t have party walls with other buildings that are still occupied.
MHA has a policy of renting the structures they have for demolition up to near time for demolition if the tenants want to rent them.
He said there is some hesitancy to fill in the building sites that had cellars because they sell more readily and at better prices to someone who wants to excavate for underground floors.
Regarding the comment about Dirty Harry playing at the Princess: the Princess had been part of the Malco chain and was only a half block north of The Malco itself. Dirty Harry opened first run at The Malco Theatre (née Orpheum) on Christmas Day 1971 and ran through Thursday February 10, 1972. The Memphis Press Scimitar newspaper has a photo of the Princess being torn down August 18, 1971. Additionally, the Princess had been closed since 1969 and seats removed and sold to Playhouse on the Square.
“The Unholy Wife” (1957) with Diana Dors, Rod Steiger & Tom Tryon on a double feature with “Cattle Queen of Montana” (1954) with Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan played at the Princess the week of April 10, 1958.
“Please live quietly” was an initiative by the Memphis city government to reduce the noise level in the city.
“3:10 to Yuma” with John Ford, Van Heflin and Felicia Farr on a double feature with “The Incredible Shrinking Man” with Grant Williams, Randy Stuart and April Kent played at the Princess during the week of March 15, 1958.
At the end of the last century, Carmike was running the Commons 6 as their main hall in one of the busiest shopping centers smack in the middle of prosperous, prestigious west Knoxville. This is a prime market. Land there goes for a premium. They had a good location: the Commons 6 was highly visible. It was at the end of a very popular strip center and in full sight of the equally busy strip center directly opposite North Peters Road. It isn’t surprising they wanted to expand from 6 screens to something bigger, but that site was built out. The other tenants were also prospering so the chance that they’d be able to take over adjacent space was all-but nil.
Undeterred, Carmike found land about a third of mile to the north east, literally adjacent to I-40/75 where 10s of thousands of cars would see the new theatre every day. Technically (if not actually, legally) the new site is part of the same retail development.
Except visually, it’s in a different world.
Right after the Commons 6 closed, a picture I wanted to see was showing at the new Wynnsong, AND I COULDN’T FIND THE THEATRE.
The Wynnsong was built on fallow ground on a dead-end, past a big-box home improvement store, over the crest of hill, the other side of a vast, unkempt, stormwater detention basin, and was completely hidden by trees on 3 sides. There was no “catching a glimpse” of the hall, no casually noticing the hot new picture was showing right over there. Heaven knows, there was no walking past and catching the smell of popcorn. There was no sign saying “theatre this way ->.” There wasn’t even a sign facing I-40/75. From the freeway, you only saw a roof and within a couple of years the trees in the untended border between the freeway and the theatre’s back parking lot grew up and you couldn’t even see the roof.
You had to know exactly where it was or have faith that the asphalt was going to keep going - past the row of trash dumpsters and loading docks - around that next corner - over the hill - there might be a movie theatre over there, or there might be someone with a banjo. This is East Tennessee afterall.
I don’t know what the box office numbers were like over the 23 years that it operated, but I never saw the hall busy. At that, I rarely saw it at all.
Apparently neither did anyone else.
It’s gone now and really, does anyone care?
The Roxy’s last day was Monday April 13, 1959. The bill was a double feature; “Houseboat” starring Sophia Loren and Cary Grant, Paramount Pictures, 1958 and “Jinx Money” starring the Bowery Boys, Monogram Pictures, 1948.
Netflix recorded a 1-hour video of standup comedian Leanne Morgan “I’m Every Woman” at the Lexington Opera House in 2023. There are numerous views of the hall during the course of the presentation.
The block on the south side of Church would have included 407 and 411. Interestingly, the address for the later, and significantly larger, Crescent Theatre (a.k.a. Loew’s Crescent, q.v.) was 415 Church. All of these properties have been razed and newer buildings stand in their place.
Regarding the Knoxville Bijou’s architect, refer to the photo of the Grand Theatre, Montgomery Alabama which lists the architectural firm as Okel and Cooper. That firm operated in Montgomery at least into the 1930s. An article in the Montgomery Advertiser, Sunday, December 11, 1910, page 22 includes this information: “Recent theatres erected from their plans and under their supervision, are The Lyric, at Atlanta; The Bijou, at Knoxville, Tenn.; The Bijou, at Nashville; The Moble, (sic!, should read Noble, q.v.) Anniston, Ala.; The Liberty, Savannah; and the Grand, Montgomery.”
As an aside, in the same article, Okel and Cooper are also credited with designing the Akin Hotel, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Clipping from the Montgomery Advertiser, Sunday, December 11, 1910, page 22
Per several references in various Alabama Newspapers, including the Montgomery Advertiser, Sunday, December 11, 1910, page 22 the architectural firm responsible for this hall was Okel and Cooper Architects, Montgomery Alabama. They were a fairly large and, at the time, well known firm. The newspapers of the time could be less than meticulous with their proofreading. The same article refers to this hall as the Moble Theatre, rather than the Noble Theatre. The confusion of the names Okel and Oakley is not too surprising.
jwinfree, I have not seen issues of the Queen News. Something like that would be the definition of ephemeral, but absolutely worth keeping an eye pealed for!