Sebastian Theater

615 Garrison Avenue,
Fort Smith, AR 72901

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Showing 24 comments

carolgrau on February 10, 2010 at 12:41 am

There is also a small neighborhood theatre in Millersburg,Pa. that is a reverse theatre.. I worked it a few times, but can’t remembeer the name of it…Owned by the Troutman family of the cinema center family…

MDaurora on December 30, 2009 at 11:40 am

The Phiel Theater in St Petersburg FL (1918-1959) was a reverse due to the builder Abram C. Phiel, having survived a theater fire in his youth, wanting the projection booth hanging off the back of the auditorium outside where a fire would not spread to the auditorium.
Interesting guy Phiel was. Self made millionaire, one time mayor of St Petersburg and the first paying passenger ever on a scheduled airline flight.

BhillH20 on June 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm

The close-up figure sure can pass for a young Rosalind Russell!!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 21, 2008 at 11:04 pm

In the Google Maps satellite view, this location (at least as Google marks it with its little green arrow) is a parking lot now, and one that looks as though it’s been there a long time and hasn’t been paved in years. Furthermore, TerraServer provides an aerial photo from 2000, and it too shows 615 Garrison as a parking lot. Are both websites mis-marking the location? Joe Wasson reported the building being vacant when he added the Sebastian to the database. That must have been later than 2000, since CT hasn’t been around that long. Is the listed address wrong? Where’s the Sebastian? on April 21, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Is this theatre really still there? I went looking for it at the above address and only found a vacant lot.

jaxsunst on March 7, 2008 at 2:10 pm

The Daisy in Memphis is (I believe) a reverse.

ticktock11 on March 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm

The Movie House in Portland, OR, was also a reverse. I’m not sure it was built for movies; it may have been a remodel of an existing auditorium.

fmbeall on September 13, 2007 at 5:50 pm

San Francisco had a true reverse theatre. It was the Theatre St. Francis on Geary near Powell. It opened in October 1916 but closed as a theatre just a few years later. The building still stands. The very theatrical street facade is acutally the old stage house and the auditorium was to the back. It has been Lefty O'Doul’s Hofbrau for many years.

jazzland on August 9, 2007 at 9:02 am

The Famous Theatre in New orleans was also a reverse or backwards theatre.

Tim on July 18, 2007 at 8:27 am

There was also another backwards cinema in York, England. It opened as The Electric Theatre on 3rd of June 1911 and was the city’s first purpose built cinema.
It became the Scala in 1951 and later closed in 1957. The buildings ornate exterior survices and now welcomes customer into a furniture shop. The rake of the floor is still in evidence as is internal plasterwork.
The building is Grade II listed as a building of historic importance and the owners look after it well.

hanksykes on June 16, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Another such backwards or double entry cinema was located in Cincinnati,Ohio, called Gifts Theater on Vine Street having been erected upon the footprint of a former firehouse. The Gifts ran from the 1920’s until 1945.

Ian on February 11, 2007 at 1:40 am

The Palace Theatre Malton was another backwards theatre as was the ABC / Regal Torquay.


raybradley on December 9, 2006 at 9:37 pm

Oklahoma had two (possibly three) reverse theatres.

Two vintage types were located in Okmulgee, OK.
The Cozy Theatre on Main St. was most definitely a reverse plan. It was built within a former retail store and to conform to fire safety codes the projectors were required to be placed in a metal booth over a rear alley.
There is debate on whether or not the Inca Theatre had a reverse auditorium. Old timers report that it did. Some “newcomers” claim it didn’t. Personally I suspect that it was probably of the reverse style as it too was built inside former retail space and surely this booth would also have been placed over the alley to meet fire codes.

Oklahoma City had a 1970’s porn house called the AcademiX Adult Cinema that had a reverse auditorium. Patrons entered from either side of the screen. Both isles ran along side walls, with centered seating. The projection booth was in the rear of the building.

Patsy on September 20, 2005 at 1:19 pm

Chas: I thought this reverse design was very rare, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, afterall.

chspringer on September 20, 2005 at 1:03 pm

The reverse design is not as rare as one might think. Along with those listed above, I know of the Guild theatre in Portalnd Oregon and the now closed Unicorn theatre in San Diego.

familyseeker on September 1, 2005 at 3:28 pm

We just drove through Limon, CO on our way from Castle Rock, CO to Cameron, MO. I had forgotten all about the Lincoln Theatre.

Patsy on September 1, 2005 at 8:06 am

Bart: If you go to the Columbia Theatre/Brookville PA link, you’ll read what I have posted about a recent visit to the hometown cinema.

Bartstar on August 31, 2005 at 9:42 pm

The Strand Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA was also a “reverse theatre”. I saw a movie there once but can’t remember much about it except that you faced the audience when you entered the theatre. Since I was running late and didn’t enter the theatre until the movie had started I was a bit shocked by the arrangement.

Patsy on January 13, 2005 at 8:35 pm

Funny that I would log onto this theatre as my husband’s hometown theatre in Brookville PA (Columbia) had this same ‘backward’ or ‘reverse’ floorplan! I’ve posted about the Columbia, but would like to learn additional history on the Columbia.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 9, 2004 at 6:46 pm

I am quite surprised to come across a reverse theatre, and to find that there were more of them. However, there is one that is missing from the list above. Though it has sadly been multiplexed, the Pacific Hastings 8 in Pasadena, California, began as a large, single-screen reverse theatre. It was a late-arriving member of this small family, having been built only in the late 1960s or early 1970s. I am wondering if these other reverse theatres shared with the Hastings its other distinguishing feature- the continental seating, an arrangement in which the aisles run up the sides of the theatre and the seats run in unbroken rows across the width of the auditorium. Though the Hastings was not a highly decorated theatre, it was nevertheless an excellent place to see a movie. I had thought it was unique in its arrangement, and always wondered why more had not been built that way. I’m glad to see that at least a few others were.

AndyT on November 22, 2004 at 9:27 am

Twinned, tripled, quadded or 24-screened former decent theaters are abominations as most folks on this site would agree. The Metro’s plywood remodeling doesn’t count for beans in the architectural discussion.

YMike on November 22, 2004 at 7:53 am

After the Metro Theatre in NY was twinned you entered the upper theatre (Former Balcony) from in front of the screen.

JimRankin on July 8, 2004 at 9:30 am

This is one of the few “Reverse” or ‘backwards’ theatres in the world, of which 9 were in the USA and 2 in England, of those that are known. This unusual format had the audience entering the front as usual, but the screen was at their backs as they entered, and the projection room/booth faced them! In some cases it was a construction demanded by the topography, as when the land at the rear sloped up sharply at the rear of the building (as with the DARRESS ( /theaters/1645/ ) and the little LINCOLN in Limon Colorado), but for others as with the WHITEHOUSE in Milwaukee ( /theaters/2642/ ), it was purely a gimmick to make the place memorable in competition with the dozens of other show houses in most communities in the ‘golden days!’ The known Reverse Theatres are:

Existing in the USA, if not also operating:
1) The SEBASTIAN, Ft. Smith, AR ( /theaters/257/ )
2) The DARRESS, Boonton, NJ ( /theaters/1645/ )
3) The LINCOLN, Limon, CO ( /theaters/7595/ )

No longer existing as a theatre, if still standing at all (USA):
4) The PHIEL, St. Petersburg, FL
5) The METROPOLITAN, 3308 W. Lawrence, Chicago, IL (later TERMINAL, METRO)
6) The E.A.R. (for Earl A. Reisden), Chicago, IL ( /theaters/7597/ )
7) The FAMILY, Quincy, IL
8) The HAPPY HOUR, New Orleans, LA
9) The WHITEHOUSE, Milwaukee, WI ( /theaters/2642/ )

These two are known of in England, but status unknown (courtesy of Louis Barfe):
10) The CINEMA ROYAL, Epsom, Surrey (1910—1938)
11) The CINEMA LUXE, Lake, Isle of Wight (1989—?)

And then there is the FOX Theatre, Taft, CA, ( /theaters/7564/ )where one “entered on the side, the back corner, actually,” to round out our little list of eccentric theatres.

familyseeker on April 3, 2004 at 8:08 am

Very interesting! Alonzo Klingensmith was married to my great grandfather’s sister, Jane (Jennie) Gamage. Jane was apparently a renowned interior decorator in her own right.