The Southern Movie Palace
Rise, Fall, and ResurrectionBook - 2003
"Jones takes us back to the heyday of the silver screen, when going downtown to an extravagant movie palace was the highlight of the week. Then she shows how contemporary visionaries have preserved and reinterpreted these grand old theaters for a modern 'going downtown' experience."--Thomas Graham, Flagler College, St. Augustine
Focusing on the restoration of movie theaters in Atlanta, Biloxi, Birmingham, Durham, Memphis, and Tampa, Janna Jones provides a record of the architectural history and preservation of the opulent urban picture palace. Reflecting our fascination with the past, she re-creates the magic of the early years of theaters throughout the southern United States, their demise in the mid-20th century, and their renaissance in the 1970s as the preservation movement swept across the country.
From the 1920s through the 1950s, the magnificent movie theaters of the South beckoned to millions of urban patrons. By the 1960s, however, many downtown districts had experienced profound cultural and economic crises and the wrecking ball destroyed scores of the grand old structures. Others barely survived by showing pornographic or racially exploitative movies. Those remaining today are often a critical component of downtown revitalization.
Jones discusses attempts to save, restore, and reuse the movie houses. She explores how and why people attempt to resurrect the past and reveals the complex layers of cultural memory. Based on her interviews with preservationists, she offers a cultural analysis of architectural preservation in the late 20th century by examining the practices, philosophies, and politics of preservation today, shedding light on the ways that nostalgia often guides--and misguides--their work.
Illustrated with black-and-white photos that evoke an era of glamour and fantasy and utilizing first-hand accounts from past and present employees and patrons of the theaters, this book is the first to detail both the decline and the revival of the urban picture palace.
Janna Jones is assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa.