Martin Theatre

211 S. 8th Street,
Opelika, AL 36801

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Martin Theatres

Architects: James J. W. Biggers

Firms: Biggers & Associates

Styles: Streamline Moderne

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Martin Theatre

The Martin Theatre opened on July 1, 1938 with Katharine Hepburn in “Holiday”. It was demolished in around 1970.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 16, 2009 at 3:20 am

The June 19, 1948, issue of Boxoffice says that the Martin Theatre had opened in June, 1938 with 1600 seats (a 1947 Boxoffice item gives the seating capacity as 1,638.) The 1948 item was primarily about a second theater that was to be built by Martin in Opelika. The new house was supposed to have 800 seats and was designed by Martin’s in-house architect of the time, Rufus E. Bland. Construction was to begin shortly. It might have opened as the Ritz, but I’ve been unable to confirm that yet.

There’s a possibility that Rufus Bland designed the 1938 Martin Theatre as well, but I’ve been unable to confirm this either. The earliest mentions of Bland in Boxoffice appear in 1948.

The auditorium of the new Martin Theatre was being built behind an existing theater (no name given) according to the brief item in Boxoffice of October 16, 1937, which said that construction on the new auditorium was going ahead rapidly. The July 9, 1938, issue said that the new Martin had opened to the public on July 1.

The Martin had a stage, and an October 11, 1947, Boxoffice article said that a series of live shows had been planned for the theater, beginning with an appearance by Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. This article also said that “…E.V. Buckner, projectionist at Martin’s Opelika Theatre here, has been with the house for 28 consecutive years.” Other than this, I’ve only found the name Opelika Theatre used in Boxoffice prior to the 1938 opening of the Martin, and I think it might be the theater that the Martin replaced. Presumably, if this is the case, part of the old theater must have become the new Martin’s entrance, and the rest of it retail space. It would also mean that the original theater had opened no later than 1919, the year in which Mr. Buckner must have been hired.

The address of the Martin should be changed to S. 8th Street (without the S., Google maps places it on North 8th Street.) An adjacent building that is still standing can be seen in the Bing Maps bird’s eye views. The Martin’s auditorium was behind the street front buildings to the south of its entrance, and its location is now part of a parking lot. Historic Aerials only has a 2006 view of Opelika, but there’s an aerial view of the town here, and it’s possible to pick out the Martin just about dead center.

A couple of September, 1969, items in Boxoffice say that Martin was building a new theater in Opelika at the Midway Plaza Shopping Center, and that the old Martin on 8th Street was to be demolished as part of an urban renewal project to create a downtown shopping mall. I see no evidence of such a mall in Opelika today, so the project probably fell through, but a parking lot and a small park now exist on the western half of the block the Martin was on, as seen in the Bing Maps bird’s eye view. The theater appears to have been almost the only building on 8th Street that was actually demolished.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 14, 2014 at 6:07 pm

This web page attributes the design of the Martin Theatre in Opelika to the firm of Biggers & Associates. James J. W. Biggers was practicing at least as late as 1949.

DavidZornig on January 5, 2018 at 8:58 pm

1940 image added via Tiffany Carroll Hilyer.

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