Lights, Camera, History: 10 Retro Movie Theaters Across the USA

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Grab your popcorn and adjust your seat – we’re about to unveil the cinema magic of the past at ten historic movie theaters that have defined entertainment across the USA.

From glitz and glamour to timeless tales, these theaters aren’t just venues but portals to a bygone era! How many have you visited?

The Egyptian Theatre (Hollywood, California)

One of the first Egyptian-inspired movie theaters in the United States, this Hollywood icon opened in 1922 and ushered in the age of cinema luxury. Known for its lavish film premieres and starting the tradition of the red carpet, this movie theater continues to be the ultimate blast from the past. Recently renovated and restored, you’ll find stone columns and hieroglyphs in the lobby – all a tribute to the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb. Stop by for one of their classic movie screenings or film festivals.   

Tampa Theatre (Tampa, Florida)

If you’re looking for a classic movie night, head to the Tampa Theatre. Opened in 1926, this slice of Florida history will take you back to the golden age of cinema with its twinkling marquee and elegant single-screen auditorium, which features a realistic night sky painting on the ceiling. Once known for its lively Vaudeville shows, the theater now hosts performances by the Florida Orchestra, special film screenings and regional premieres!

Avalon Theatre (Washington, D.C.)

Discover a hidden gem in the heart of Washington, D.C. – the Avalon Theatre. For over 100 years, this movie house has entertained audiences with a mix of thought-provoking films and engaging stories. Kick back with a bucket of popcorn and enjoy classic film screenings and weekly family movie nights. The theater also hosts special programming like French film showcases and a wealth of independent films.

Al. Ringling Theatre (Baraboo, Wisconsin)

Experience the charm of old-world entertainment at the Al. Ringling Theatre in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Owned by one of the Ringling Brothers, this theater has been showing films since 1915. From the velvet red seats to the private balcony boxes, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the past when seeing a movie here. Take a 60-minute tour of the historic space, and you might get to hear the resident Barton organ, “The Al.”

Plaza 1907 (Ottawa, Kansas)

For a cozy and intimate movie experience, look no further than Plaza 1907 in Ottawa. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this theater is the oldest operating cinema in the world. Established in 1907, it continues to show the latest hits on its two screens. Pop into the on-site Movie Memorabilia Museum to view nostalgic artifacts from productions past, including Elvis’s hair, century-old posters, and genuine costumes from old Hollywood movies.

Coleman Theatre (Miami, Oklahoma)

The 1929 Spanish Mission-style Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma, doesn’t just play today’s most anticipated movies – it features ballets, operas, orchestras, and the occasional silent film accompanied by the theater’s original pipe organ, the Mighty Wurlitzer. Relax by the fountain in the theater’s tranquil Celebrity Park, check out local icons on the theater’s Wall of Fame, and sign the Coleman Theatre guest book before you go!

Colonial Theatre (Phoenixville, Pennsylvania)

The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, clocked some screen time in the 1988 cult hit The Blob and still hosts the annual Blobfest, a weekend-long celebration dedicated to the movie. Initially opened in 1903, the theater started out by holding screenings of 40-minute reels and musical productions. Today, catch the latest hits, attend a concert, or take in a live lecture in the expanded theater and cultural center. And, of course, attend Blobfest with fellow horror film fans!

Pickwick Theatre (Park Ridge, Illinois)

Just outside Chicago, the 96-year-old Pickwick Theatre remains a popular spot for movies and live shows. Easily identified by its marquee (an iconic 100-foot-tall tower), the theater’s main auditorium was inspired by Mayan and Aztec architecture. Check out a film screening or live performance in the historic main Mega-Theatre, or watch one of the latest releases in the other four auditoriums. Recently, the theater was featured in an episode of NBC’s Chicago Fire!

Byrd Theatre (Richmond, Virginia)

The Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Virginia, retains most of its original 1928 charm, thanks to the meticulous preservation of its historic gold-and-scarlet design. Its stunning paintings, golden columns and archways are truly a sight to behold. Stop by on a Saturday afternoon before the family feature film to hear the original organ play, or pick up tickets to see your favorite classic film from the balcony. Be sure to grab a ticket to the Richmond International Festival in September!

Balboa Theatre (San Diego, California)

The Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California, originally opened as a Vaudeville house in 1924 before transitioning into a movie palace in the 1930s. Renovated in 2008, the single-screen theater now shows a rotating roster of new and old Hollywood movies, indie flicks, and screenings of events like the Oscars. You can even catch an off-Broadway musical from time to time!

Take this guide with you via your iPhone with Apple Maps! Click here and enjoy these retro movie theaters on the go!

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