During Hollywood’s golden age—the 1920s through 1940s—nearly every American city and town had its own movie palace.
Whether an extravagant, neon-clad jewel or of more modest proportion, the neighborhood theater was the anchor of the community’s social and economic life. Designed in a wide range of flamboyant architectural styles, America’s historic theaters have entertained millions, first as vaudeville houses and later as movie theaters.
These lavish theaters offered moviegoers an escape from hard times into a world of illusion during the Depression. But as the post-World War II boom fed migration to sprawling suburbs, many downtown palaces fell into disrepair or closed.
Egyptian, Delta, Colorado
Sands, Brush, California
Fox, Sidney, Nebraska
Crest, Sacramento, California
Fox, Trinidad, Colorado
Multiplexes later presented stiff competition for single-screen theaters by offering a choice of films at one convenient location. The downtown theater, with only one auditorium and screen, could no longer compete. Some of these architectural treasures have been saved, finding new life as performing-arts centers, but most have been lost forever.
These early theaters represent a unique architectural resource that is rapidly vanishing from the nation’s landscape. In fact, in 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the single-screen historic theater atop its Most Endangered Historic Places list.Tower, LA, California
Alex, Glendale, California
Kallet, Oneida, NY
Palace, LA, California
Silvermoon, Lakeland, Florida
The Senator, Baltimore, MA