Alabama #4: Alabama Theater

 A series of Wednesday posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area.                     See Post #1,  Post #2, and Post #3. This is Post #4.

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The Alabama Theater in downtown Birmingham is called the “Showplace of the South”, with good reason. Built in 1927 by the Paramount-Publix Corporation, it is gorgeous beyond words, and welcome change to a typical, modern theater experience.  Generally speaking, for most of us, a theater means a school auditorium, a modern movie theater that is built solely for function, or for beautiful theaters – opera performances, or something we do not frequent.  From the exterior, I did not expect anything spectacular, but as soon as I stepped inside, I was amazed. Seldom will you visit a theater as beautiful as the Alabama. Photographs from a point-and-shoot camera cannot capture the detail, and the flash does not substitute for professional lighting, so I took only a few shots before I settled on gazing at the interior. For much better photographs, see the HABS collection.  Or view the virtual 360 tour of the theater.

Alabama Theater Interior: Perspective View of the Stage Looking from the East. Photograph by Jack E. Boucher, 1996. United States Library of Congress, HABS.

Alabama Theater Interior: Perspective View of the Stage Looking from the East. Photograph by Jack E. Boucher, 1996. United States Library of Congress, HABS.

The Alabama functioned primarily as a movie palace for its 55 years of life, though it olds fame as a practice location for the Mickey Mouse Club and the stage for the Miss Alabama Pageant.  The theater closed in 1987 after a few changes in ownership, but in 1998 underwent a complete restoration from cleaned carpets to repair of or repainting the gold leaf details.  The theater is still home to the Wurlitzer Theater Organ, which was used to accompany silent films and is one of the few remaining, functional Wurlitzer Theater Organs in the United States.

Today the Alabama Theater is home to special events, stage performances, dance competitions, a summer film series, and more.  If you are ever in or near Birmingham, a visit to the Alabama Theater is well worth your time. Despite my adoration for architecture, few buildings have left me in such a state of awe as this one.   For more information visit the website or view the photograph collection at the Birmingham Public Library (found through wikipedia).

Walking on the same side of the street as the Alabama Theater is located offered no indication of the grand interior.

Walking on the same side of the street as the Alabama Theater is located offered no indication of the grand interior.