Circuit Playhouse

51 S. Cooper Street,
Memphis, TN 38104

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Related Websites

Playhouse on the Square Home Page

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Malco Theatres Inc., Movies Inc.

Functions: Live Theater, Performing Arts

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: American Theatre, Memphian Theatre

Nearby Theaters

2011 photo of the Memphian Theatre, now Circuit Playhouse

Originally at this address in 1928 the second American Theatre opened. The earliest known photograph of that building is from a 1930 magazine article and it was named Malco Theatre on December 20, 1929. Remodeled as the Memphian Theatre in Art Moderne style in 1935, this former movie house to this day still remains elegant and stylish, with its bold blade marquee, which is brilliantly illuminated in neon at night. The Memphian Theatre has had at least one serious fire and has been remodeled several times, including the front. Its trademark feature is the neon behind glass blocks between the front showcases.

It was used in the 1960’s by Elvis Presley regularly for private parties he held there. One seat used by Elvis is preserved from that era. It was closed by Malco in 1978. It was reopened on August 29, 1980 by Movies Inc.

Though its days as a movie theater ended more than two decades ago, the Memphian Theatre remains in use today, as one of the city’s best-known smaller live theaters.

Playhouse on the Square, bought and renovated it for professional live theatre in 1986. In 1992 and 1997, the Playhouse expanded into empty storefronts adjoining the old movie theatre and expanded the offices and technical areas. It still retains a few balcony seats.

When Playhouse on the Square moved into its brand new facility across the street in 2010, Circuit Playhouse, the community owned theatre owned by the same company, moved into the old Memphian Theatre. During Elvis Week in the summers, the theater offers modest & fun tours of the building. The neon letters spelling ‘Memphian’ became a sculpture displayed in the bar/lounge area, which has also had use as a cabaret space.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

William Creswell
William Creswell on July 24, 2006 at 9:43 pm

If you want to see a really nice photo of the Memphian Theatre before it was Playhouse On the Square, look for an album by Joe Walsh called “Got Any Gum?”. It dates from 1987 but the front cover is a very nice shot of the theatre when it was still the Memphian.
(Just Google the info and you should easily find a pic.)

TLSLOEWS on April 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Very nice I will have to drive over and check it out.

courtney4691 on July 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm

As an employee of the company for many years, I wanted to let Elvis fans know that during Elvis week in the summers, we offer modest and fun tours of the building, formerly the Memphian Theatre (a favorite hang-out of Elvis'). If you or a group is interested, contact Courtney Oliver at It’s a fabulous building and wonderful landmark for Midtown Memphis!

vastor on July 30, 2011 at 4:50 pm

New photo uploaded of the Memphian as Circuit Playhouse.

Patsy on March 8, 2015 at 5:24 pm

So nice to know this theatre has been preserved as it will always have a personal connection to Elvis.

Logan5 on May 15, 2015 at 8:02 pm

The premiere of the film “This Is Elvis” was held at the Memphian Theatre on Friday April 3, 1981.

DavidZornig on July 8, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Per Joe V Lowry on the Historic Memphis Facebook page: “February 9, 1947 4 Alarm Fire At 2:21 am a fire was reported at the Memphian Theater located at 51 S. Cooper Street. A 2nd alarm at 2:25, a 3rd Alarm at 2:30, a Special Call at 2:33 and a 4th alarm at 2:35. A neighbor living behind the theater heard an explosion. The entire inside, chairs and curtains were destroyed. $40,000 Loss.”

rivest266 on August 12, 2021 at 9:05 am

This reopened as Malco on December 20th, 1929. Grand opening ad posted.

rivest266 on August 14, 2021 at 9:20 am

Closed in 1978 by Malco and reopened by Movies, Inc. On August 29th, 1980. Grand opening ad and article opened.

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