Davis Theatre

Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts - Photo by Melissa Parker
Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts - Photo by Melissa Parker

Montgomery – The Davis Theatre originally opened its doors on January 25, 1930, as the Paramount Theatre. The era of sound had begun and the price of adult matinee admission was twenty-five cents.

The movie was shown from metal reels in the old style projectors and the film frequently broke, resulting in whistles and “catcalls” from the patrons until the unfortunate projectionist could splice the film.

Sweethearts always sat in the balcony so that their “smooching” could go undetected. During the 50s and 60s the theatre would offer Saturday matinees for children with contests and games. There were even a few weddings up on the Paramount stage!

Gone With the Wind had its Alabama premiere at the Paramount in January of 1940. Ironically just weeks before, in late 1939, Clark Gable and wife Carole Lombard stayed overnight at the Whitley Hotel right next door to the Paramount Theatre. The news media swarmed the hotel, but the night clerk wouldn’t talk so the Gables were able to slip away the next morning undetected.

The first Cinema Scope feature film unspooled at the Paramount in 1953: the five-time Oscar-nominated religious epic, The Robe. On November 4, 1964, Your Cheatin’ Heart, a Hollywood movie biography of Hank Williams, premiered at the Paramount Theatre. It grossed ten million dollars and even by 1973 it was the most successful country film ever made.

After the Paramount closed in 1976 (the last feature was Gone With the Wind), the theatre was purchased by Troy State University. They renovated the theatre and reopened in 1983 as the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts, named for the late Tine W. Davis and his wife, Eunice, the major contributors to the restoration effort.

Not only is the Davis Theatre home for the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the Montgomery Ballet, and the Alabama Dance Theatre, but band concerts, gospel concerts, graduations, beauty pageants, fashion shows, dance recitals, and school plays are held there. It is located at 251 Montgomery Street, across the street from the Rosa Parks Museum.

The seating area is divided into a balcony (seats 616) and a main floor (seats 584). You can get to either the balcony or the main floor from the lobby. Upcoming events are the Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings in concert, a presentation of the Broadway production of CATS, and 1960s singers Bobby Rydell and “Diamond” Dave Somerville.

Article by Melissa Parker

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