Melba Theater

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Melba Theater in 1981

The Melba Theater was a former cinema operating at 2022 2nd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham. It was part of the Acme Theaters chain, which also operated the Lyric Theatre, Empire Theater, Galax Theater and Royal Theater.

Opened on Thursday, March 14, 1946, the 1000-seat Melba Theater was the first downtown cinema to have been built expressly for films with soundtracks. The manager was Harry Curl.

Opening day crowds lined the entire block, eager to be treated to the latest in modern comforts and decor as they enjoyed the Fred MacMurray comedy "Pardon My Past" on the wide screen, accompanied by the latest "Voice of the Theater" sound system. Tickets were originally 45 cents (tax included), with weekday matinees priced at 35 cents.

In 1953, the Melba became the first cinema in Birmingham to "go Three-D," with a screening of "Bwana Devil." That August, theatre management announced that the venue was going "all Three-D" for two or three months, with 10 3-D films booked for consecutive runs.

Poster for the 3-D adventure "Bwana Devil"

Walt Disney's highly-anticipated "Davy Crockett" opened at the Melba on June 8, 1955. The Melba hosted the April 3, 1964 premiere of the feature film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird," with child stars Mary Badham and Phillip Alford of Birmingham in attendance. Coincidentally, the event was held on the same day as the start of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights' "Birmingham Campaign" of public demonstrations.

After two decades the Melba was given a $100,000 makeover. It reopened in December 1966 with "rocker-lounger" seating and a fashionable pale orange and turquoise color scheme. Architects Hallmark & Haney were assisted by the Queen Feature Service in the redesign. The grand re-opening coincided with a screening of "Murderers' Row" with Dean Martin and Ann Margret.

As suburban theaters drew white audiences from downtown the Melba, like its neighbors, adapted itself for mostly-Black audiences with second-run action and exploitation films. It closed in the early 1980s and was demolished in 1984 in advance of the construction of Birmingham Parking Authority Deck 6.

To left:
2020 (Shoe Center)
2nd Avenue North
To right:
2024 (Melba Shop)