Take a bow: Tennessee Theatre celebrates its 95th anniversary


Knoxville’s beautiful Tennessee Theatre opened its doors for the first time on Oct. 1 1928, and on Oct. 1, 2023, the community celebrated its anniversary with a tour of the building and a silent film: Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. House organist Freddie Brabson provided magnificent accompaniment on the theater’s Wurlitzer organ.

Here’s some interesting trivia about the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, as provided by the theater:

  • The first movie patrons paid 40 cents for matinees and 60 cents for evening shows. Kids paid 10 and 15 cents respectively.

  • The vertical sign above Gay Street is not the original. It was removed in 1956. The current one is an exact replica that was created during the building’s renovation in 2005. The ticket kiosk below the marquee is the original box office.

  • Designed by architects in Chicago, the theater’s interior elements were sourced from all over the world. The chandeliers include Czechoslovakian crystals and the terrazzo flooring in the Grand Lobby is Italian.

  • Interesting, each of the chandeliers in the lobby is named after a girlfriend of the stagehands employed at the time. Except one. He didn’t have a girlfriend so he named it after his dog. In case you’re wondering, they’re named Angie, Molly, Susie, Wendy, and Gretchen. We don’t know which one was the dog!

  • The original stage was about half the size of the current one. A system was developed so it could hang over the State Street at the rear of the stage. The back wall is soundproof and estimated to weigh one million pounds.

  • There are 13 dressing rooms, 10 of which have full baths. All of them are named after starts that have performed at the theater. Their decor is very simple so it can be adjusted to each performer’s preferences.
  • The Mighty Wurlitzer organ was installed to be used with silent films, but by the time the theater opened, silent films were on their way out. The organ was kept to provide pre-movie entertainment.

For more about the Tennessee Theatre and upcoming shows, click here.

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