GOING TO THE MOVIES IN NASHVILLE

  


  Growing up in 1950's and 1960's Nashville provided many memories for me and an important part of my life was going to the movies. Movie theaters were palaces compared to today. They showed one movie at a time. Many times we would arrive late but you could always hang around and catch the part of the movie at the next showing that you missed. There were a few suburban theaters like the Melrose or the Belle Meade theater where my sister Donna took me to see my first indoor movie called Bombers B-52. Belle Meade was built in 1940. It had a wall of fame where just about every Hollywood movie star had signed their photograph at one time or another. In the summertime we usually went to the drive-in's like Warner Park, Bel-Aire, the Skyway, Colonial, Crescent or Montague. I loved Warner Park and Skyway because they had playgrounds. My wife Debbie and I went to the Montague or Colonial drive ins when we were dating.

  Nashville's downtown theaters had atmosphere. The Paramount opened on November 14, 1930. During World War ll it had an organ and a organist. My cousin Roy was an usher there. He went to work in a usher uniform like you see in the movies about the 1940's and 50's. Roy asked me one day if I wanted to earn some extra money. There was a B rated movie coming out about Sinbad. It was a cheezy title like Sinbad meets Godzilla or something. The Paramount was wanting someone to pass out flyers promoting the movie. I rounded up a bunch of my friends and we all rode our bicycles downtown. There were hundreds of these flyers and we passed them out all up and down Church Street. People would glance at them and throw them down. Church street was thoroughly trashed. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned around it was a Nashville police officer. He angrily asked me if I knew how much it cost for the city's sanitation department to clean this mess up. I can't remember what I told him but our job our day job ended right there. If you started walking down Church st. starting at 8th Ave. and staying on the right side of the street heading east the Paramount would be the 1st theater that you came to. I remember seeing the Longest Day there. It was about D-Day and was released for the 20th anniversary. There was a special section, down front roped off for D-Day veterans. After the movie was over I remember hearing one of the veterans as he was walking out of the theater lean over and tell his buddy, "I wish it had been that easy". The Loews was the fanciest of all of the theaters to me. It was originally an opera house which opened on October 3, 1887. It had two balconies and sixteen boxes. Loew's took over the hall in the mid-1920's. There were Vaudeville acts and movies. When I was a kid all of the Walt Disney movies were shown there. The Dirty Dozen was the last movie ever shown there. On August 8, 1967 the theater caught fire and was heavily damaged. The lobby was used as retail space until 1986.

  In front of the Loews if you looked straight up Capital Blvd. you could see the Knickerbocker on the left. This is where I spent many of my Saturday's watching such B- rated classic horror movies as the H-Man and Frankenstein's daughter. The Knickerbocker had two entrances. One on Capital Blvd and one on 6th Avenue. Continuing east down Church you came to the Tennessee theater. It was probably the most spacious and modern theater. The Tennessee theater was at 533 Church near Harvey's and Cain-Sloan. It opened in 1952 and was demolished in the 1980's. Last but not least there was the old Princess theater that was later changed to the Crescent. I saw many epic movies there like How The West Was Won and John Wayne's the Alamo. This was where my brother Mark acted like he was looking for something on the floor because he didn't want me to know he cried when Davy Crockett died. Black's either had their own theaters or they were allowed to sit in segregated sections of the balconies at the various theaters. Modern day theaters are much more efficient and show more movies but when I was a kid going to the movie was an experience.


Lobby of the Paramount


The Knickerbocker
The Knickerbocker

The premiere of Sgt York at the Knickerbocker





The Loews after the fire
The Tennessee theater







Interior of the Tennessee Theater


Tennessee theater

Inside the Tennessee theater



1940 Grand Opening


1940 Grand opening

1940

1940

1940

1940

1940 Grand opening





Emmett Kelly















Comments

  1. Nice piece. You've probably already caught this: Looking up Capitol Blvd from Loew's the Knickerbocker was on the right and extended through to 6th Ave.

    What you remember was the New Princess. The old one was in the next block between 5th and 6th. It was torn down when the new Cain-Sloan was built.

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