Tennessee Theatre

Knoxville, Tennessee | C.1928

Photo Credit: DLR Group

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Though billed as Knoxville’s “Grand Entertainment Palace,” the Tennessee Theatre has never actually housed any royal residents. Rather, it takes its nickname from “movie palace,” a phrase used to describe the style of large and extravagant single-screen movie theaters that became popular in the early 20th century.

Built in 1928, many of the Tennessee’s first shows were silent movies and vaudeville acts, filling the auditorium with sounds of musicians, comedians, and sometimes even circus performers. One such performer, a Western star named Tom Mix, was known for crowding the Tennessee’s small stage with his famous horse Tony.

After “talkies” became popular, the Tennessee would reign over the entertainment sphere in Knoxville for almost fifty years until newer theaters with swanky technology overtook the stage. With a decrease in attendees, the theater’s opulent decor began to gather a layer of dust, before finally closing in 1977. But thankfully, the show was not over!

Over the next few decades, the theater saw minor renovations and intermittent re-openings as its various owners attempted to improve the building for modern audiences. It wasn’t until 2005 that a full restoration occurred with help from the one & only DLR Group. Fully restored to its original splendor, the Tennessee finally reopened for good.

Today, the building still reigns supreme in downtown Knoxville as a world-class performing arts center and the Official State Theater of Tennessee. Whether you get tickets for a Broadway musical or an old classic movie, you can be sure that entertainment is always king at the “Grand Entertainment Palace.” As for us, we’re secretly hoping they bring the horses back to center stage.

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