Historic Timeline of Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville

“History is a mighty drama, enacted upon the theatre of time, suns for lamps, and eternity for a background.”

-Thomas Carlyle


History is the soul of our existence. It is the story of the past, the heart of the present and the inspiration for the future. It is, therefore, important to appreciate and treasure our history. To keep the history living for the next generations to come, we must do our best to protect and preserve it.

History is not just a series of events that occurred in the past, or the names of people who made a remarkable difference. History also holds the meaning to life; may it be the past, the present, or the future. In order to understand what happened, what is happening now and what could happen, we must seek the answers from history.

One of the greatest stories of our local history is the Tennessee Theatre which holds a long and colorful past. A series of remarkable and memorable events have taken place in this theatre, which is greatly remembered to this day. These events will always be treasured and will never be forgotten by the people of Knoxville.

It was in November 1927 that Chicago-based contractor George M. Fuller broke ground between Gay and State streets, beginning the construction of the Tennessee Theatre. The next year, on October 1, 1928, The Tennessee Theatre, owned and operated by Publix, opened its doors. The first movie shown in the theatre was “The Fleet’s In” which starred the beautiful actress Clara Bow. On 1932 however, Publix went bankrupt and Wilby-Kincey assumed ownership on Tennessee Theatre.

In 1936, a memorable occasion was celebrated when a double wedding took place at the Tennessee Theatre. It was the wedding of Easterday brothers, Claude and Ben. The siblings were the winners of a contest sponsored by the Knoxville Journal newspaper that awarded them an all-expense paid wedding and a host of gifts provided by local merchants. The ceremony was a public event graced by more than 2,000 people.

Wilby-Kincey transferred the ownership of the Tennessee Theatre to Paramount Theatres after selling it to the latter in 1949. On October 1953, new projectors, sound equipment, and a curved Cinemascope screen was installed for enhanced film viewing and the first Cinemascope movie “The Robe” was shown.

It was in March 2005 when the Tennessee outranked the Ryman Auditorium on Pollstar’s list of the World’s Top 50 Theaters based on first quarter 2005 attendance for the first time ever in history. The theatre was honored to be at #47.  Finally, in 2008, the Tennessee Theatre completed its most successful quarter in history, experiencing record-breaking ticket sales and an unprecedented number of sold-out performances. At the end of the month, the Theatre’s annual Stars on Stage gala, featuring B.B. King, raised approximately $200,000 toward general operating expenses.

These are a few of the most unforgettable historic events of the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville. To view the full timeline, visit http://www.tennesseetheatre.com/about-us/historical-timeline/. History is truly full of drama as the colorful historic timeline of the Tennessee Theatre has proven. Let’s keep the drama alive by cherishing these memorable events.

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