139 N. 11th Street,
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Previously operated by: Malco Theatres Inc., Paramount Pictures Inc.
Functions: Fraternal Hall
The Temple Theatre was located on N. 11th Street, a block from Garrison Street at North B. Street. Built in 1929 as a Masonic Temple, it had an 800-seat auditorium which was equipped with stage facilities. It had been operating as a movie theatre prior to 1941, when it was listed as (Closed), but had re-opened by 1943 under the direction of Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary M.A. Lightman. The entrance to the Temple Theatre was via emergency exits to the auditorium on North B. Street. It was taken over by Malco Theatres and they erected a large freestanding sign on the sidewalk of North B Street. The lease on the building to Malco Theatres allowed the Mason’s use of the building at certain times. The Temple Theatre was still open in 1955.
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The Temple theatre was actually the auditorium for the Masonic Temple. It was located at 1138 North B Street, Fort Smith, Arkansas. Two large lion sculptures graced the entrance. It was an amazing art deco building with an Egyptian theme. The building has not been demolished, at least not when the last google street view cameras passed by. You can view it on the Google maps
Search for the address shown and then do street view. You have do a complete 180 degree turn because the image first shown is across the street from the theatre building.
The current google view shows that the lions are gone, but you can see the way the lions looked because their duplicates are still intact at the main entrance to the Masonic lodge (the address is 254 N 11 street), which you can also see with the Google street view. An image from 2008 on cinematours.com shows the lodge main entrance as the theatre. I know where the theatre was because I worked one college summer in the building next door and went to the theatre often.
That cinematour.com page lists its status as demolished, but while the theatre is gone the building is still there (unless that happened after the most recent Google maps photo).
According to wikipedia the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
By the way… those aren’t lions as you can see from the photo at the Masonic Lodge (on 11th Street), they are Sphinxes (just like the great Sphinx in Egypt). That’s also what the two were in front of the theatre (on B street). They do have bodies of lions, but the head of a person (as everyone knows). Since I hadn’t seen them for about 50 years, I forgot exactly what they were.
Malco theaters leased the auditorium of the Fort Smith Masonic Temple. It was open to the public except for about ten days a year when it was used for Masonic activities. The lease was rumored to be a lifesaver for the Masons who were having trouble paying their mortgage.
The Temple Theater was the second A movie house Malco theater in Fort Smith. The larger Joie Theater was the first. Malco had a monopoly on all Fort Smith movie theaters until two drive-in theaters opened in the late 1940’s.
Malco errected a large independent sign on the B street side of the building. It served as a marquee showing what movie was playing. The 11th Street side of the building was the main entrance to offices in the building. A hall outside the auditorium became the movie theater lobby. Some former emergency exits had become the movie theater entrance.
Today the auditorium is used only for Masonic activities. The marquee sign is long gone. The building is well maintained and looks good. No one would ever imagine that it had been a movie theater at
The Temple Theater had refrigerated air conditioning like the Joie Theater. All the other Malco theaters used evaporative cooling.
This is a partner post to the one I made on the New/Malco page. For some reason, I remember quite a bit about the exterior of the Temple, and a good number of the titles I saw there in the 60s. The exterior looked quite different that it does today. In its bare architectural appearance today, it could be a bank. In the mid-sixties I remember it looking quite different.
The most noticable difference would have been noticable at night due to the somewhat large marquis sign that stood on its own, but I can’t remember if it was to the left or right when facing from the street. I believe it was to the right. I do remember that there was a box office structure of some kind to the right of the top of the steps. I suspect that this was somehow linked to the existing third doorway. This all made the front of theater exterior around the stairs quite bright at night. The lobby was rather small with just the concession stand and I think the stairs to the balcony to the left as you entered.
The films I saw there in the 60s that come to mind are: Hatari! (in the balcony), That Darn Cat, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
My dad was not a Mason, so the Temple’s shared roof with the Masonic lodge was always a little spooky to some of us kids. There was a mystery about it.
On February 11, 2013, the local Masons announced that the Temple building was for sale. Their smaller membership no longer could support maintaining the building. Asking price was reported around $775,000. The Masons hoped a new owner would allow them to use the building occasionbally for meetings. The newspaper report stated that the theater was still intact with seats and orchestra pit.
The building opened in 1929. Cost was $385,000 at that time.
I will report updates when published.
I’m not sure, but I think my wife, 2-year old son, and I went to this theater in 1971 and saw “Harlow” in B&W. We were on the way to Wilburton, OK from Keesler AFB, MS by bus and had an eight or nine hour layover in Fort Smith. We spent the time walking around downtown and went to a movie. I remember we sat on the theater steps for awhile.