Waters Theatre Company
The Waters Theatre Company was a cinema chain founded by Newman Waters, Sr in 1932 with his purchase of the North Birmingham Theater. By 1936 he had added the Gary Theater in Fairfield, Ensley Theater, Woodlawn Theater, East Lake Theater, Norwood Theater, Five Points Theater, Homewood Theater, Central Park Theater, Pratt City Theater, Tarrant City Theater, Leeds Theater, Cullman Theater and Hartselle Theater to his portfolio.
In 1943 the company branched out into real estate with the purchase of the Watts Tower, Lyric Building and Phoenix Building. In the mid-1940s, Waters' son, Newman Waters, Jr, became president of the newly-formed Downtown Properties, Inc., which also employed his brother J. R.. The firm exchanged the Watts Tower for the old Jefferson County Courthouse building, then owned by Southern Natural Gas Company in 1949. A year later, with a long-term lease from the Southern Bell Company, they expanded the Phoenix Building. The company also remodeled the 1928 Drug Co. Building as modern office space.
Beginning in 1948, the company built the Roebuck Drive-In, Shades Mountain Drive-In, Fair Park Drive-In and Starlite Drive-In cinemas and also operated 12 neighborhood and suburban theaters in the Birmingham District, including the Newmar Theater (1948–) downtown. In 1950 the Waters Company announced construction of two new 600-car drive-ins, one on Jasper Highway near East Thomas and one on Cullman Highway.
On January 1, 1951 the Waters company ended its lease of the Lyric Theatre to Paramount Theaters and Wilby-Kincey chain of Atlanta, which had been in effect since 1932, and leased it instead to the Acme Theaters chain, which also operated the Melba Theater, Empire Theater, Galax Theater and Royal Theater. By 1959 the firm's offices were located at 2839 Cahaba Road in Mountain Brook Village and counted the East Lawn Corp., Lyric Building Corp., Oak Hill Land Corp., Phoenix Building Co., Downtown Realty Corp., and Downtown Properties, Inc. among its subsidiaries.
As a real-estate developer, Waters led the development of the Belview Heights, Oak Hills, Crestwood and Killough Springs subdivisions. Later Waters partnered with Ervin Jackson to develop Office Park in Mountain Brook. Waters was the sole developer of Eastwood Mall, which opened in 1960 near his Starlite Drive-In.
Waters Drive-In Theatres included several screens in the Birmingham area:
- Fair Park Drive-In, Lomb Avenue at the Alabama State Fairgrounds
- Roebuck Drive-In, U. S. Highway 11 in Roebuck
- Robinwood Drive-In, Tarrant-Pinson Highway in Robinwood
- Shades Mountain Drive-In, U. S. Highway 31 in Vestavia Hills
- Skyview Drive-In, U. S. Highway 31 in Gardendale
- Starlite Drive-In, U. S. Highway 78 at Eastwood
- "Drive-In Boom On in South: Ala., Tenn., Locations Set" (November 20, 1948) Billboard
- "Waters announces theaters' merger." (August 1950) Birmingham News - via Birmingham Rewound
- "With mall opening— Tomorrow will climax career of civic leader" (August 24, 1960) Birmingham News