The Carver Theatre, now formally known as the Carver Performing Arts Center, is an Art Deco style theater located at 1631 4th Avenue North in Birmingham's Civil Rights District. In its days as a movie theater, it was one of several places in the 4th Avenue area where African-Americans could see first-run movies while Birmingham's segregation laws kept them out of other movie-houses in town.
The Carver is now a non-profit multipurpose community theater and live-performance venue which seats 508. It is also the home of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
The Carver, named after educator George Washington Carver, was opened in 1935. A $160,000 renovation in 1945 equipped the Carver with many new features, including 1,300 of the latest model theater chairs, air conditioning, and improved sound and projection, as reported by The Birmingham News. The Fourth Avenue area was a business and entertainment hub for the city's black community, and was also the location of many events in the American Civil Rights Movement.
As with most downtown theaters, the Carver's fortunes declined over the years. In later years, the theater showed pornographic movies, and the facility closed sometime in the early 1980s.
The City of Birmingham, seeking to improve the area where many events of the Civil Rights Movement took place, purchased the Carver in 1990 and remodeled it for live-performance use, with an eye toward remembering the Carver's place in the African-American community. Since its reopening, the Carver has hosted performances by Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, the Tom Joyner syndicated radio show, and many other notable performers.
A $240,000 project to enlarge the stage by closing the orchestra pit is planned in 2007.