The Most Beautiful Dead and Repurposed Movie Theaters in the US


With the Tribeca Film Festival right around the corner, we have movies and movie houses on the brain. And with BuzzFeed’s recent compilation of defunct theaters, we thought we’d present a small selection of our own favorite venues, whether dead or repurposed, in a few Flavorpill cities and beyond, where you could have once seen film.

Vogue Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Photo credit: Kara Tillotson

In 1936, the Vogue was opened on Hollywood Boulevard as a one-floor movie house with a seating capacity of 890. Before it was built, there was a four-room school house on the site that burned down in 1901, killing 25 students and a teacher, Miss Elizabeth. In 1997, the Vogue was rented by the International Society for Paranormal Research (ISPR) as a site for research and psychic performances. Vogue’s most famous ghost is “Fritz,” the projectionist who died of a heart attack in the projection room in the 1980s.

Loews Kings Theater, Brooklyn, NY

Photo credit: Matt Lambros

One of five “wonder theaters” built by Loews, the Kings (68,000-square-foot), opened in 1929, with a screening of Evangeline and a special appearance by its star, Dolores del Rio. It showcased vaudeville acts and a pipe organ before showing movies exclusively. The theater is being renovated and will, after the renovations, be the biggest indoor theater in Brooklyn, presenting a planned 250 concerts, theatrical performances, and community events each year.

Permanent Cameo, Los Angeles, CA

Photo credit: IaasB

The oldest surviving movie theater on Broadway, Cameo Theatre opened in 1910 as Clune’s Broadway Theatre, one of the first purpose-built “picture playhouses.” It was the longest continually operating movie theater in California, and possibly the US. In December 1991, Cameo closed down.

The Palace Theater, Marfa, TX

Though Marfa has provided the scenic desert backdrop for many notable films, including Giant and No Country for Old Men, the town only has two movie theaters, neither of which is functional. The Palace is one of them. It now serves as a residence.

Duke Theater, Oak Park, MI

Opened in 1941, the Duke Theater was designed by Charles Agree and named after Duke Ellington. It closed in 1947. It has since been a bowling alley, a roller skating rink, and a Heating/Cooling repair shop before that too closed. Charles Agree was one of the Detroit architects of the 1920s and 30s whose commissions often incorporated the work of architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci.

Liberty Theater, Vendalia, IL

Opened around 1910 in Vendalia, the former state capitol of Illinois, this single-screen movie house was first known as the Dixie Theater. It was remodeled in the 1930s in the Art Deco style and renamed the Liberty Theater. Until it was shut down in 2008, it featured first-run films and occasional live acts.

Ramova Theater, Chicago, IL

Charlie Chaplin held the Chicago premiere of The Great Dictator at the Ramova Theater on Chicago’s south side. Completed in 1929, it resembled a Spanish courtyard with a ceiling of glittering stars. During the 1950s, as the Bridgeport neighborhood transformed from an Irish to a Hispanic community, the cinema declined. In the 1980s, the Ramova closed and has been abandoned ever since.

Mexico Theatre, San Jose, CA

Photo credit: Sueism1

Since its 1949 opening, this theater has been called the Mayfair, Esquire, and Mexico, with successive change of hands. Its distinctive exterior with a cylindrical tower in a streamline Moderne style with neon rings and backlit glass block makes it one of our favorite beautiful, bygone theaters.

The Regent Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Photo credit: IaasB

Bucyrus Theater, Bucyrus, Ohio

Uptown Theatre, Chicago, IL

The ornate theater, the second largest in the United States, has been abandoned and boarded up since 1980.

The Patio Theater, Chicago, IL

The Patio Theater opened in 1927 in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago. It seats 1,500, and was designed in the “atmospheric” style with twinkling stars and moving clouds on the auditorium ceiling to simulate a night sky.