Final movie theatre in downtown Little Rock

On October 4, 1977, the Arkansas Theatre screened its final films at 516 South Louisiana.  When it closed, it also ended the run of commercial movie theatres in downtown.

The last two films to show there were J. D.’s Revenge (which starred Louis Gossett Jr.) at 5:40pm and 9:00pm, and Coffy (which starred Pam Grier) at 7:20 pm.

The decision to close the theatre was made by United Artists which operated the facility, and had once had its local offices in the building.  Since the 1930s, UA (and its predecessors) had been booking films into the building.  But as the movie going public started preferring to watch their films in the suburbs, downtown movie houses became a thing of the past.

The building opened on September 20, 1910, as the Kempner Opera House. It was designed by New York architect Henry Beaumont Herts of the architectural firm Herts & Tallant. Originally the facade was in a Sullivanesque style, but this was later altered into an Art Deco style, with stucco and ceramic tile highlights.

Seating over 1300, it was home to plays, operas, musicals, lectures, vaudeville, and community meetings. By the late 1920s, with motion pictures a booming business, it was transformed into a movie house.  It reopened as the Arkansas Theatre on September 27, 1929.

The last few years it was open, the Arkansas had featured mainly Blaxploitation films.  But by 1977, Hollywood was moving away from those. The area manager for the UA chain told the Arkansas Gazette that the lack of movies in that genre also contributed to the reason to shut it.

United Artists had a lease with the Kempner family that would run through 1997, unless they could find someone else to take the building over.  They tried to interest the Arkansas Opera Theatre, but it was not a feasible option for AOT.  Eventually, the building was deeded to the University of Arkansas Foundation.

In late 1995, the structure was razed. After 18 years of sitting vacant, the structure had deteriorated beyond repair.  Because of alterations to the interior and exterior over the years, it was not eligible for historic preservation designations or funds.

Today it is a parking lot across the street from the Lafayette Building and due south of the Hall-Davidson Building.

Little Rock Look Back: Final film at the Arkansas Theatre

On October 4, 1977, the Arkansas Theatre screened its final films at 516 South Louisiana.  When it closed, it also ended the run of commercial movie theatres in downtown.

The last two films to show there were J. D.’s Revenge (which starred Louis Gossett Jr.) at 5:40pm and 9:00pm, and Coffy (which starred Pam Grier) at 7:20 pm.

The decision to close the theatre was made by United Artists which operated the facility, and had once had its local offices in the building.  Since the 1930s, UA (and its predecessors) had been booking films into the building.  But as the movie going public started preferring to watch their films in the suburbs, downtown movie houses became a thing of the past.

The building opened on September 20, 1910, as the Kempner Opera House. It was designed by New York architect Henry Beaumont Herts of the architectural firm Herts & Tallant. Originally the facade was in a Sullivanesque style, but this was later altered into an Art Deco style, with stucco and ceramic tile highlights.

Seating over 1300, it was home to plays, operas, musicals, lectures, vaudeville, and community meetings. By the late 1920s, with motion pictures a booming business, it was transformed into a movie house.  It reopened as the Arkansas Theatre on September 27, 1929.

The last few years it was open, the Arkansas had featured mainly Blaxploitation films.  But by 1977, Hollywood was moving away from those. The area manager for the UA chain told the Arkansas Gazette that the lack of movies in that genre also contributed to the reason to shut it.

United Artists had a lease with the Kempner family that would run through 1997, unless they could find someone else to take the building over.  They tried to interest the Arkansas Opera Theatre, but it was not a feasible option for AOT.  Eventually, the building was deeded to the University of Arkansas Foundation.

In late 1995, the structure was razed. After 18 years of sitting vacant, the structure had deteriorated beyond repair.  Because of alterations to the interior and exterior over the years, it was not eligible for historic preservation designations or funds.

Today it is a parking lot across the street from the Lafayette Building and due south of the Hall-Davidson Building.

Little Rock Look Back: President William McKinley

William_McKinley_by_Courtney_Art_Studio,_1896It doesn’t appear that William McKinley ever visited Little Rock.  He does, however, have a street named after him.  In the list of Presidential streets, he is the last President to be the namesake of a street.  It would not be until Roosevelt was named for FDR in the 1930s and Clinton Avenue was named in the 1990s that more Little Rock streets would be named for the Commander in Chief.

William McKinley, Jr., was born on January 29, 1843. He would be the last US President to have served in the Civil War, entering as a private and exiting as a major.  After the war, he returned to his native Ohio, was married and became an attorney.  From 1877 until 1883 and again from 1885 until 1891, he served in Congress.  Defeated for re-election in 1890, he ran for Governor of Ohio in 1891 and was elected. He was re-elected in 1895 but by the next year would be on the ballot for President. Famous for campaigning from his front porch, he was elected in 1896 over William Jennings Bryan.  In 1900, he was re-elected again over Bryan.  On September 6, 1901, in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, he was shot.  He died on September 14.

President McKinley is responsible for the name Fort Logan H. Roots for the federal military installation located in Little Rock on the north side of the Arkansas River (now part of NLR). It was named for a former GOP Congressman from Arkansas.  As a civic leader, Roots had been involved in the negotiations for the land swap which led to the establishment of the military installation north of the river and the creation of City Park (now MacArthur Park) on the site of the former military outpost. He died in 1893 shortly after the deal had been executed.

Arkansas voters never gave McKinley their electoral votes. But when he was assassinated in September 1901, there was a public memorial service held for him at the Kempner Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  At the time, it was the largest indoor structure in the City for events.