Capri Art Theatre

1819 Madison Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38104

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Idlewild Theatre, Front Street Theatre, P.O.E.T.S., Ritz Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Idlewild Theatre

The Idlewild Theatre was opened in 1939 by Chalmers and Edward Cullins and partner Nate Evans. Edward ran this theatre; it was one of the larger neighbourhood theatres and had a balcony.

In the 1960’s it was remodeled into a live theatre named Front Street Theatre (after the street where the company was first located). It went through an adult movie period as the Capri Art Theatre closing in 1975, was a music venue under several names(more names than any other building in Memphis) including Ritz Theatre, was a gay bar then divided up into retail spaces and then cleared out again.

It was last in use as a special events venue named Madison Square with only the lounges and balcony structure remaining from its early days. It was demolished in March 2018.

Contributed by Jack Coursey, Vincent Astor

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Backseater on October 24, 2005 at 11:58 pm

This theater is on the South side of Madison Avenue just West of McLean. When I arrived in Memphis in 1963 it was operating as a live venue known as Front Street Theater, even though it was a long way from Front Street. The bar/lounge upstairs under the balcony was a local talking point. By the early 1970s it had gone to porn—and not even very high-class porn, at that—and was limping along. I lost track of it in the late 70s, but believe it was closed for a while. Glad to hear the building was saved, at least.

JackCoursey on March 16, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Here are a couple of photos from January 2006 of the Idlewild.

GaryB on July 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Just to explain the name in the 1960’s.

The performing company got it’s start as a semi-pro company and performed in the basement of the “King Cotton Hotel” on Front Street in Memphis, when it went outgrew the confines there, a new location was needed, first the Memphian was considered, would have been a wonderful choice, but the deal fell thru, and since a midtown location was prefered, the deal with the Idlewild was made, and they brought their name with them.

As performing theater it could seat 401.

I spent many happy and sometime hard hours there when I was in High School, I learned so very much, maybe sometime I will share some of my times.

For now just wanted to explain the name and give a few facts.

vastor on March 21, 2018 at 7:26 pm

This theater was demolished on March 20th, 2018, for redevelopment. Only the restrooms from the theater’s heyday still existed, the rest had been remodeled many times. This building sported more names than any other theatre building in Shelby County.

rivest266 on August 13, 2021 at 1:34 pm

This reopened on January 24th, 1969, showing adult movies. Another grand opening ad posted.

rivest266 on August 14, 2021 at 3:53 am

Newspaper listings stopped in 1975.

possum on August 14, 2021 at 10:26 am

I looked up “Love Mates,” which is advertised as the opening attraction at the Capri Art Theatre. It actually appears to be a respectable romantic comedy from Sweden, although you wouldn’t know it from the theatre’s ad.

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