Saenger Theatre

6 S. Joachim Street,
Mobile, AL 36602

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lonespaceranger on September 24, 2017 at 7:40 pm

A couple of sites about The Saengar.

fvalenti2 on July 6, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Sounds like a great old theater. I walked by it once a year ago when we were down from New York State. Would like to catch an old movie sometime.

Cinematron on July 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm

This theater has an annual summer movie series of selected older films. “The Godfather,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Easy Rider” are a few examples. The movies are or were preceded by old cartoons and ads for concessions. It is simply a nostalgic experience. The sound echos, so had I not been familiar with the movies I saw there, I would have not been able to understand exactly what was being said.

Trolleyguy on June 30, 2016 at 10:48 pm

Currently also showing classic films according to the website.

Joespkn on September 3, 2013 at 2:10 am

Ken this is a pic of the billboard at Joachim and Conti the colored entrance was just west of this intersection and partially visible.

TLSLOEWS on May 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Very Nice Photos.

kencmcintyre on June 25, 2009 at 2:35 am

Here is a larger version of one of the photos on the official site. Date is 1952.

Edward Jurich
Edward Jurich on October 10, 2007 at 12:49 am

Mr. Bill Hooper was in the process of restoring the organ when the University sold the theater to the city. From what I can gather, the city hired a couple of guys to maintain the place that we lets say less than qualified to do so. Bill got frustrated and stopped his work. I had done quite a bit of wiring in the organ chambers and soldering some pipes. At this point there is no telling what happen to the organ. But the last I saw the blower worked, all new air pipe and we were tooting pipes by hand.

celloman on June 11, 2007 at 3:39 am

Does the theatre still have the Robert Morton organ?

Edward Jurich
Edward Jurich on October 11, 2006 at 2:45 pm

I don’t believe the Saenger in Mobile has run real movies since about 2002. From what I heard, they were using video projection casting images on the screen slightly better than shadows. When I ran films in the late 1990’s the presentation was wonderful including cartoons and shorts in front of features.
Sometime around 2002 I had gotten an email from the Saneger asking if I could run films again but I had moved to Kansas City. I’m guessing they couldn’t find anyone that knew how to run and maintain the projector.

MGWorley on October 4, 2006 at 9:45 pm

Finding this site brings back a lot of memories. I worked as an usher and doorman at the Saenger in the mid 1960’s.
I spent a lot of time below the stage going through the old advance sheets and photos of past stage and movie stars. I often wish that I had collected a few posters and photos.

kencmcintyre on May 31, 2006 at 12:03 am

Didn’t hear about that one. I will make a note, though.

kencmcintyre on May 30, 2006 at 10:40 pm

Here is the Saenger website with some older photos:

Patsy on September 11, 2005 at 11:01 am

I am the Saenger Theatre
I am not built merely of Marble, Mortar and Steel;
but born with a Heart and Soul and a Purpose, like yourself.
I am the creation and the result of a master mind; the disciple of a dreamer
with whom to dream was to do;
I am a reality loved into life.
I receive you with the hospitality of a hostess in her home as I realize my
responsibility to make you comfortable, to refresh you, to throw about you
the mantle of protection, and to entertain you.
Courtesy is ever my creed; hospitality my religion.
I will render every service to my people and in the future that is
away from us in a vanishing line,
I will stand steadfast upon the principles that endow me.
I accept the responsibility of giving Mobile the utmost in entertainment.
I hope you will take me to your heart and homes, as a friend for good,
to live among you to the end.
I am a Mobile Institution.
I am the Saenger Theatre.

The above quote came from the opening program on January 19, 1927.

“When Mobile’s Saenger Theatre opened on January 19, 1927, it was the 61st in the Saenger Theatre chain founded by JH and AD Saenger of New Orleans, and located throughout the South, as well in Cuba and Puerto Rico.”

Patsy on September 11, 2005 at 10:57 am

Chuck1231: The above photo site shows an exterior roof design that is similar to the Palace Theatre in Canton Ohio which I will be visiting this coming weekend.

RobertR on April 28, 2005 at 7:54 pm

Here is a picture during extwerior renovations

Patsy on March 26, 2005 at 8:50 pm

I taped the above show and just watched it! Very good and hope they do more theatres in the very near future! I’m sure if CT members contact the History Channel they will do more!

Patsy on March 23, 2005 at 8:54 pm

Theaters: Fox Theatre, Tucson, AZ and Saenger Theater, Mobile, AL
Airs on Saturday, March 26 at 2:00pm ET

Episode description: “Talking Pictures” gave birth to a theater-building boom in the 1930s. In an attempt to make going to the movies as memorable as the film itself, architects and engineers constructed buildings that stimulated the senses. From the flashing lights of the marquee to the cushion seats of the balcony, no
detail was overlooked. Host Marty Dunham travels to Arizona and visits the Fox Tucson Theatre. While there, he installs new air-conditioning ducts and acoustone—a soundproofing material that dates to the 1920s. Then, Marty visits Santa Theresa Tile Works to recreate the vintage tile that once covered the Fox’s facade. And at the Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Alabama, Marty helps mount a plaster bracket for new box seats and assists in applying gold leafing to this renovated movie house.

sdoerr on December 20, 2003 at 10:46 pm

When Mobile’s Saenger Theatre opened on January 19, 1927, it was the 61st in the Saenger Theatre chain founded by JH and AD Saenger of New Orleans, and located throughout the South, as well in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Hailed as “Alabama’s Greatest Showplace” and “the most beautiful playhouse in all of Dixie”, the Mobile Saenger Theatre took a year to construct at a cost of about $500,000. Designed by renowned architect Emile Weil, the Mobile Saenger featured three-color auditorium lighting; a 2-manuel, 10-rank Robert Morton theatre organ; full stage facilities to accommodate large road shows, including stage and wardrobe traps, four floors of dressing rooms, musicians' and chorus rooms; and 2,615 seats. (Around 1950, the seats on the floor were replaced and re-spaced, reducing the theatre’s seating capacity to about 2200; seating capacity is now 1993). Revisions were made to the blueprints during construction for the installation of Carrier Air Conditioning unit #005 (#001 is in the Smithsonian Institution).

The theatre’s decoration, described as “the motif of a French palace of the Renaissance”, was in fact an interesting theme developed on classical Greek mythologies and Mobile’s coastal location. Poseidon is cast above the front entrance; interior plaster ornamentation includes Dionysus above the proscenium, Maenads encircling the chandelier in the lounge, Pan beneath the organ grilles, and various stylized seahorses, shells, and fish throughout the theatre. The color scheme of the interior was primarily sea-green with maroon and gold trim, and trompe l'oeil decoration of the ceiling. The arcade’s lighting fixture is an abstraction of bubbles.

The building was designed in a continental style so that it resembled European opera houses. The auditorium’s opera boxes, located beneath the organ grilles, were later removed to improve sightlines for the larger Cinemascope movie screen. Other outstanding architectural features of the building included the tilted arcade, marble grand staircase, lamps, chandeliers, statuary, ornate door frames, mezzanine, and promenade. Lavish furnishings in the men’s “Stage Room” and the ladies' “At the Sign of the Lipstick,” lounge, magnificent draperies, and carpets with the name of the theatre woven into the fabric.

At the dedication ceremonies on January 19, 1927, then Mayor Harry T.Hartwell and State Senator John Craft were joined by J.L. Bedsole, president of the Chamber of Commerce, in addressing the crowd gathered for theauspicious occasion. Mrs. W.G. Ward, a representative of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, presented a portrait of General Robert E. Lee for the Theatre’s foyer, as the dedication date was the General’s 119th birthday.

Through the years, the Saenger Theatre provided Mobilians outstanding theatrical entertainment on the live stage and motion picture screen. The Saenger hosted silent movies, vaudeville shows, movies, dramatic and musical productions, and was the scene of the first America’s Junior Miss Pageant. However, as was the case with many of these grand movie palaces, ownership changes, high maintenance costs, and a changing city-core rendered many of these beautiful buildings “white elephants”. Many were demolished to make was for parking lots and other forms of urban development. ABC/Paramount closed the Saenger Theatre and removed the projection equipment in early 1970. On the eve of demolition, the University of South Alabama bought the Saenger from ABC/Paramount and was renovated and re-opened as a performing arts center under the name of The USA Saenger Theatre. The University’s restoration and return to operation of the Mobile Saenger Theatre is credited as having been one of the major forces in the revitalization of downtown Mobile.

On October 1, 1999, the City of Mobile purchased the Saenger Theatre from the University of South Alabama. A new, not-for-profit organization, called Center For The Living Arts, Inc., was formed in early 2000 to operate the Saenger Theatre. The summer of 2000 saw the replacement of the Theatre’s antiquated air-conditioning and heating systems, as well as a major upgrade of the electrical system. Further upgrades will included the stage rigging and film projection systems, executive offices, as well as the conversion of the old retail space fronting Joachim Street into a grand lobby and concession area with updated restroom and VIP facilities.

The Saenger Theatre Performing Arts Center will function as a multi-disciplinary arts center, home of the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Lyric Theatre, the Saenger Series, the Summer Movie Series, concerts, lectures, and special events.

sdoerr on November 4, 2003 at 12:51 pm

Looks like a nice theatre. Anyone know what year it was first opened?