5 ways the Alabama Theatre is better than ever

Bham Now at The Alabama Theatre
Can you tell we love the Alabama Theatre? Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

When was the last time you went to the Alabama Theatre? Our team caught Elf on the big screen last December and we had a merry little time. Meanwhile, the folks at the “Showplace of the South” have been busy getting the place ready for its 100th birthday, and it’s better than ever. Here’s why.

1. A new marquee is coming.

North face of the new marquee at The Alabama Theatre
The new “mustache marquee” will have 1,126 lightbulbs — 576 on the front and 276 on each face. Drawing courtesy of Fravert Services.

When you’re a stately almost-century-old living legend, a facelift is just what you need to head into the next century with style.

Anyone who’s spent any time near the Alabama Theatre recently will surely have seen the new signs on the 18th Street side of the building and the newly refurbished sign on the 3rd Avenue North front of the building.

Now it’s time for a new marquee above the entrance on Third Avenue North. Fravert Services is taking down the current marquee that’s served well for the last 60 years.

The design of the new marquee harkens back to the original 1927 model with a modern twist.

2. A little history of signs at The Alabama

The Alabama Theatre
This is what the original Alabama Theatre marquee looked like on Christmas Eve in 1927. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Landmarks, Inc.

Back in 1927, the original Alabama Theatre marquee had swooping curlicues and an illuminated display with white letters on black, kind of like a chalkboard.

In the 1930s, they updated the marquee with metal letters on a white milk glass background, backlit by incandescent bulbs.

In 1960, a new “modern marquee” replaced screw-in lightbulbs (so 1930s) with fluorescent tubes. But now, fluorescent lights are so passé, and LED lights and digital displays will bring the 2020 marquee into the 21st century.

The Alabama Theatre
By 1957, the medallions on top of the marquee said, “It’s Cool Inside!” The Alabama was the first effectively air-conditioned theatre in the state. Photo via Birmingham, Ala. Public Library Archives.

3. The Summer Film Series will be here before you know it.

Summer Film Series at The Alabama Theatre
You can still cool off at The Alabama with the Summer Film Series. Photo via The Alabama Theatre’s Facebook page

The new marquee is scheduled to be ready just in time for the 2020 Summer Film Series. Mark your calendar now and plan to cool off at the movies: Friday, June 26.

Here’s what’s on tap:

  • Monty Python + the Holy Grail—June 26, 7PM
  • The Wizard of Oz—June 28, 2PM
  • The Big Lebowski—July 10, 7PM
  • The Color Purple—July 12, 2PM
  • Steel Magnolias—July 17, 7PM
  • 9 to 5—July 19, 2PM
  • Grease Sing-Along—July 24, 7PM
  • Singin’ in the Rain—July 26, 2PM
  • Saturday Night Fever—July 31, 7PM
  • The Sound of Music—Aug. 2, 2PM
  • The Princess Bride—Aug. 7, 7PM
  • Mrs. Doubtfire—Aug. 9, 2PM
  • A League of their Own—Aug. 14, 7PM
  • Gone with the Wind—Aug. 16, 2PM

4. Who doesn’t love Big Bertha, the Mighty Wurlitzer?

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of the Alabama Theatre experience is when The Mighty Wurlitzer organ, affectionately known as “Big Bertha” rises from below the floor and the music fills the space.

5. The women’s restrooms at The Alabama Theatre got a major boost.

The Alabama Theatre
Getting ready to turn 100. Photo via The Alabama Theatre’s Facebook page

Did you know the Alabama Theatre has 2100 seats? You may be surprised to know that when it opened, it had a total of 5 stalls where women could use the restroom. It’s hard to believe that remained the case until just recently.

$500,000 later, the Alabama Theatre now proudly boasts 25 women’s stalls, which makes those necessary trips to the ladies’ room much quicker.

Support the Alabama Theatre through the Showplace Society

The Showplace Society, launched by the nonprofit Birmingham Landmarks, Inc., helps patrons support both The Alabama and The Lyric into their second century.

The Linn-Henley Charitable Trust has provided a $500,000 match for the next 10 years—this allows members to double their contributions, no matter the size. Showplace Society members also enjoy benefits such as pre-sale codes, private receptions, movie tickets and more.

To join, go to www.alabamatheatre.com and click on “support us.”

Location: 1817 Third Avenue N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Contact: 205.ALA.BAMA | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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