Friday, July 17, 2009

The Alabama Theater


It seems that the older I get, the more interested I am in history. How we got where we are today. One piece of history that we recently toured in Birmingham is the historical Alabama theatre, a landmark in the downtown district. I’ve passed by this sign many times since we moved here and always wanted to go inside and see it and the recent Open House was the perfect excuse to take the tour and enjoy this magnificent bit of architecture that’s been preserved. I’ve been in the Fox Theatre in Atlanta many times and the Alabama reminds me so much of the Fox, but smaller. Both are from the same era and from the sign below, they call the design Spanish/Moorish. It is certainly something to behold, so come along with me for the tour.


You can see from the historical sign outside, that the theatre opened in 1927. Can you imagine this place in its heyday?!


Someone had parked an old car out front, so it seemed fitting to take a pic of it, even though this car is from the 50’s.


National Register of Historic Places. Since 1987, the theatre has been owned by Birmingham Landmarks, Inc., a non-profit organization. They now use the theatre for a wide variety of events and receptions, both public and private, weddings, classic films, national touring shows, film festivals, opera and symphony events. It is busy each year with over 250 events. We plan to return at least one weekend to take in a classic movie that is offered each summer (and they were very generous and handed out complimentary tickets to everyone who came to the Open House). Gone With The Wind is just one classic movie being featured in the summer series this year. In fact, it is showing this weekend and we are going! It's been years since I've seen it.

Box office in the lobby.


I was totally fascinated by all the beautiful light fixtures, as you will see from my many pics of them. This is the one in the soaring lobby.


One fixture on a wall going up the stairs.


Another view of the mirrors and fixtures in the lobby.


One of the ceilings.


A quick pic in a chair in one of the hallways. It was pretty dim in there, so pics were hard to get.


Going up one level. See how magnificent this old place is?


I’m SO happy that these old theatres have survived. I know the Fox in Atlanta was almost torn down at one time and that would be a crying shame for any of these old girls to come down. Thankfully, the Alabama has survived and looks as gracious as ever.


A row of seats.


Looking into one of the ladies rooms.


Part of the ladies room too.


Wall of windows


Looking to the stage. I loved the curve of the top of the stage, there was so much beauty to take in.


The domed ceiling.


More architectural details.


Another pretty light.


From the very top of the projection room, we had to climb some stairs to get this birds-eye view of the stage.


Statue around the theatre


Another bust against the mirror.


Loved the old signs.


Recognize this lady? Yep, that’s Mz. Scarlett herself.


Stage, again.


Tophat backstage.


The theatre is known for the old Wurlitzer organ that still plays a mighty strong tune. These guys were great with it.


Left box overlooking the stage.


Right box


Looking UP from the floor to all the levels of seating.


Above the stage.


One corridor on a floor.


More magnificent lighting.


Again, the lights. I just thought they were all stunning.


Ceiling detail.


End of a row


More lights.


The signs, I loved them.


Those lights, could they be any prettier?

So, we left the Alabama and went just across the street to the old Lyric Theater, which opened in 1916. Sadly, this old theatre has not survived intact and is in dire need of repair. The same owners own both theatres and it is said to cost $20 million to get this old place back up to the original state. That’s a LOT of money and I sure hope that some way, some how, they are able to restore this one too.


It’s peeling and falling apart and it’s such a shame, because this one is truly beautiful too.




You can get a glimpse of what it once looked like here.


That’s the sad part of these stories, it costs so much money to repair and revitalize these old buildings, but it sure would be a shame to tear them all down. We need to preserve our history for future generations.

I hope you enjoyed going with me to tour The Alabama. If you live here in Alabama and haven’t been inside this beautiful place, I would urge you to go and see it for yourself.

Do you have a special theatre like this in your hometown?

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Daisy Cottage said...

Awesome! It is so special AND beautiful isn't it? Gorgeous - every inch. And YES, thankfully we do have something very much like it - literally a few blocks from me.. thank you for reminding me that I should share ours one day too. They ARE treasures. Beautiful capture of it in your photos.

Have a great weekend girlfriend!


Beth said...

Gorgeous! I live in Knoxville, TN now, but I was born and raised in Lanett, AL. Knoxville has two old theatres downtown, the Tennessee theatre and the Bijou Theatre. I have only been inside the Bijou and it is pretty. But I would imagine the Tennessee theatre might be comparable to the Alabama. They sometimes play old movies at the Tennessee, but we haven't gotten around to going yet.

Michelle said...

Very beautiful indeed - thanks for the tour and all the pictures. No, sadly, we don't have anything neat like that near where we live in Michigan.

Have a great weekend!
~Michelle :)

B''ham Nancy said...

Years ago our daughters had one
of their dance recitals at
The Alabama, it was great.
On our list of things to do this
summer is a movie at the theatre.
Thanks for sharing and showing
great pics.

Diane said...

What a gorgeous theatre! Thanks for sharing! I live in Louisville, Kentucky and we have a beautiful theatre that has been restored and is in use again for plays, concerts, etc. It's so much fun to get dressed up and go to this theatre. It doesn't even matter if the performance isn't that great, just being at the theatre is entertainment enough! Go here to see it I think you'll enjoy it!

Tiffany said...

Wow! It has so much character and history. Thanks for sharing those beautiful pictures.

Happy Nester said...

We have a beautiful old theater here in Lakeland, Florida, as well.
They sure don't make them like they used to, do they?
Thanks for sharing.

g.suzie said...

Such a beautiful theater, you are lucky to enjoy such a wonderful building. Thanks for letting us enjoy the experience too and have a great weekend!

Carrie said...

How beautiful! It does look very much like the Fox inside. I can totally relate to age bringing with it a love for history. I want to go antiquing every other day, much to my husband's disgust! Ha.

Tracy B at FeedSack Cooking said...

It is not wonderful. Our favorite time to visit is at Christmas. They show " It's a Wonderful Life " and have hot chocolate and Santa and Mrs. Santa there.

A little note my husbands grandfather worked with the theater all his life. His family has told many stories about them going with him as children. It is sad now because they are not here to talk about it with them.

Thanks for sharing a great part of history.

Lindsay With Lindsay said...

So ornate! Thanks for sharing this beauty with us, Rhoda!

Lara said...

You need to go at Christmas! They show classic Christmas movies & have hot chocolate. Plus, the Christmas Carols before the movie starts. It is so much fun. I am really homesick.

Pam said...

I love history and I love that there are still bldgs around like this for people to view and enjoy. What awesome details on the walls and around. The newer bldgs these days are nice for the time, but they lack character that the older ones have. Nice..thanks for sharing.

Kathy said...

This made me so homesick! I grew up in Birmingham and saw many movies at the Alabama, including "Gone with the Wind" when it was re-released in the late '60's! I went w/my mother and a few of her friends. I remember we sat in the balcony and you could hear everyone in the theater catch their breath when Clark Gable first appeared on the screen. Thanks for bringing those memories back to life.

Rose Broadway (Rosie) said...

What a gorgeous piece of history! I'm as facinated with lighting as you are.
Our old hometown theatre had to be razed a few years ago. The Historical Society kept it going for many years, but just couldn't any longer. So sad.
You take beautiful pictures!

Becky K. said...

We love to visit old theatres. It seems that there are many from town to town...not as beautiful as this, normally.

Amazing! I, too, hope they can restore the one across the street.

Becky K.

Wagonwife Designs said...

Thank you for taking us on this fabulous tour. I love the architecture. Gorgeous - all of it.

Lianne said...

I saw "Phantom of the Opera" there many years ago. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! It looks just the same as I remember it!

Laryssa Herbert said...

It's lovely! Thanks for sharing!

Ashley said...

Wow! I had no idea Alabama had this! It sort of reminds me of the Princess Theatre in North Alabama, only much bigger and much nicer.

Susie from Bienvenue said...

Beautiful pictures Miss Rhoda! I feel like I was there with you. I agree,it's a shame that they cant pull some funds together and have it restored to it's beauty. I would love to visit both one day. Thank you for sharing such an awesome piece of history. It's always fun to take lil field trip along with you~

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Wow - it all looks so lovely. The light fixtures are amazing! I also loved the detail on the ends of the rows of seats. Wonder what future generatios will think in about 80 years of the buildings we're erecting today? We just don't seem to value the sort of detail they did way back then.


Carrie said...

Wow...I've never been to Alabama, but now I want to visit!

Those are beautiful buildings and remind me of Phantom of the Opera. And it also puts me up on a soapbox about how greedy and disrespectful my generation is...but anyway....

Thank you! I LOVE these pictures!

Tamara Jansen said...

What an INCREDIBLE old theatre!!! Thanks for sharing those amazing photos. Someone will sure need a strong vision to be able to restore the other one.....

Christi @ A Southern Life said...

Gorgeous! So wonderful that it has been restored and is being enjoyed.

Richella said...

Here in Durham we have the Carolina Theatre, which is lovely. . . but it doesn't hold a candle to the Alabama. That's one of the things I miss about Birmingham. We moved away from B'ham at Christmastime, and one of my son's Sunday school teachers took his class to see The Christmas Story at the Alabama as a going-away party for my boy. Wasn't that sweet? It's one of my most precious "last" memories of Birmingham. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

parTea lady said...

I have really enjoyed seeing all your fabulous photos of this theatre. The fixtures, architectural detail, statuary, etc. are stunning.

I feel like I've really had a visit, even though I've never been to Birmingham. This will be at the top of my must see list if I ever make it there.

Atlanta is only an hour away, so perhaps I can visit the Fox sometime.

Debbie said...

The Alabama reminds me of our old theater here in Mobile, The Saenger Theater. Its been around for a while too, not sure about the date. Its been restored and is beautiful as well. I've been there many times with my kids in school for programs, but we also have many performers in at night too. I agree with you, they need to be kept alive. Have a great day. Debbie

Frugal Fine Living said...

Wow, what an amazing theater! Thanks for the tour.


Janet said...

oh my Rhoda!

This place is unbelieveable, what wonderful pictures. Thanks for the tour.

Unfortunately, here in Southern California, for the most part, they tear down old to build new. Awful.

Katherine said...

Rhoda, I completely agree with you. We take our sons there for the summer movie series, and I go every spring for a friend's tap recital. It means so much to me, and we love supporting it!

Susan said...

Thank you, Rhoda, for the wonderful tour of the Alabama--it is such a treasure! I've participated in many a show there, and it's just a wonderful place. How exciting you were also able to tour the Lyric across the street! The theatre I work for has our Cabaret a half block east of the Alabama in the Kress building...

By the way, the arch above the stage is called a proscenium.

We are so blessed here in Birmingham to have a truly thriving theatre scene. You should check out the Virginia Samford Theatre in Southside--very lovingly restored and also a busy working theatre!

Mary Anne said...

I love the pics of the theater but I loooove the yellow box flip flips you are wearing too! They are divine! Confirm this for me..they look like yellow box! Most comfortable summer shoe around!

Wendy said...

What a beautiful old place! We have a historic theatre here as well, opened in 1928, but Ive never5 been inside. Elvis even signed the wall in 1957!

Wendy said...

Kim (Daisy Cottage) & I are talking about the same one!

The Consummate Hostess said...

What an incredible place. I want those light fixtures and retro-glam signs!!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Good eye, Mary Anne, those are indeed Yellow Box flip-flops and I blogged about them a couple months ago.

Kathi said...

I've seen the sign for the theater before but have never been inside.
Thanks so much for the tour!
I'll just have to go to see a movie there soon! I'll put it on my Christmas list too!

BeautifulWreck said...

Beautiful theater!I've been there once many moons ago. I love the Saenger Theater down here in Mobile. Worked a wedding with an event planner that took place on the stage. It was stunning!

Cindy said...

Yes, in Mobile, AL, we have the Saenger--looks alot like the Alabama. We love to go there. Our church has has Easter service there the last two years.

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

Hi Rhoda,
I really enjoyed this post. The Alabama Theatre is a treasure indeed.
We do have a theatre that is very special to us...check out if you have a chance and read about the rennovation of our Grand Opera House that was reopened in 2006. I spend lots of time there...volunteering in the box office, and serving as an usher for shows.
:) Diane

Renae said...

What a stunning did a great job of capturing its essence. I really enjoyed your post.

Tracy @ comfortandluxury said...

Very nice post... beautiful photos! A similar old theater in the city just to the south of us recently reopened after years of back and forth between city fathers and developers I haven't had the opportunity to visit it yet, but hear from others (and see in the paper) that it's quite something. I'm so glad there seems to be a resurgence of interest in bringing these old beauties back to life.

Cottage Rose said...

Hello Rhoda; Thank you so much for taking us with you. What a gorgeous old lady... I am so glad that they redid her how beautiful it all is, such detail in everything... I hope they get the money to save the other one... I so agree that we need to preserve our History and old buildings, if at all possible... I really enjoyed the tour..


gallaghergfam said...

We have the Playhouse district with many old theaters here in Cleveland, Ohio. We are suppose to be second to Broadway. They are absolutely beautiful! Nancy from OHIO

Dreams and Decor said...

How absolutely magnificent! We don't have anything at all like this in my small town, which makes me appreciate your beautiful photos all the more! Thanks for sharing! Patti

Valerie said...

Rhoda it has been a long time since I've been there. My sister took my niece and nephew this past weekend to watch a movie. With your pictures I felt like I was with you on the tour. Thanks!

Bambi said...

Thank you,Rhoda, for showing this beautiful, restored theatre. I live in a VERY small community, with 800 in my town. Three yrs ago, eleven of us volunteers raised funds to restore our movie theatre that was built in 1928. It was an extensive project but we successed and it is beautiful. Even the neon marquee on the front still shines brightly and continues to drawn people in. We are very proud of our achievement and of our community for their contributions. And it still has first-run movies along with a stage area for local performances!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

I'm so glad y'all enjoyed this tour! It truly is worth showing off this beauty of a theater.

Bambi, that is an excellent story, so glad you saved yours too. Way to go!

Anonymous said...

The seats on the front row of the balcony are the best seats in the house. I almost got married at the Alabama. They charge an arm and a leg though.

We visit to see White Christmas every year.

Blushing hostess said...

I have not had enough time in Brimingham to see places like this and I would love to. I read a lot these days about the revitilization there and I truly hope all of its historically relevent structures will be saved a la Charleston and Savannah...

Kim said...

I love old theaters. Thanks for sharing yours. They don't make them like they used to. I too hope that the 2nd theater you showed gets revamped. It is such a shame to see it that way.

Allison said...

I love the Alabama and have many fond memories. In 3rd grade, my mom took a station wagon full of kids to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang there for my birthday. In high school, we had our senior class picture taken on the main staircase. My oldest daughter had a dance recital there in 5th grade and more recently my husband and I saw Hall & Oates perform. Have also seen Jackson Browne there. Oh, how could I forget - I went to see Hal Holbrook perform his Mark Twain Tonight. Such a beautiful building! Thanks for sharing the photos.