Miami’s Theaters

Miami Businesses

Auditorium ad from September 24, 1915

Miami has always had movie theaters, it seems. By 1912, the town had seen open for business the Pastime (located where the Cardin building, aka the former Security Bank building, now sits), the Orpheum, the Idle Hour, the Odeon (on the first block of SE 1st), the Starlight, the Lyric (East Central and A), the Airdome, and the Electric Theater, located somewhere on N Main. Most of these theaters didn’t last long.

The Airdome got new life breathed into it when it was purchased in 1912 by J.W. Hatfield and renamed the Auditorium.

The Dreamland opened at 12 South Main, where Security Bank now sits, in 1914. It soon changed its name to the Grand. For a while, the Miami Record-Herald would have big ads from the Grand and the Auditorium running side by side. In 1916, the owners of the Auditorium purchased the Grand and both theaters remained open for business. Late in the year, they purchased the Opera House, which had been sitting idle since 1911, revamped it, and closed the Auditorium. The Opera House was set up with a projector. It was a busy place until the next year, when the building was purchased with the idea of renovating it into office space.

In 1917, the Grand received some competition: the Glory B, which opened directly across the street (at the site of the present-day Jeannie’s). Both of these theaters had stages large enough to accommodate vaudeville acts and live bands.

Glory B and Grand Theater ads, January 6, 1928

Glory B and Grand Theater ads, September 7, 1927

Glory B ad, January 5, 1940

Ottawa and Coleman ads, January 4, 1946

Both theaters eventually came to be owned by Sarah Cardin Staton. A Staton owning a South Main business was a common situation in the twenties. The Grand lasted until 1928. It apparently never converted to sound, and the rival across the street announced it that year. In fact, the last Grand ad was placed in the News-Record the weekend before the Glory B debuted sound.

Vaudeville and Talkies at the Glory B, November 2, 1928

On April 18, 1929, the Coleman theater opened. The Coleman also had a vaudeville stage, and Miamians once again had their choice of two theaters to attend.

Coleman Theater writeup, January 20, 1929, the article mentions three obscure playhouses that Miami had in the past. Click to enlarge.

The article above is valuable because it mentions three obscure playhouses from Miami’s past: the Odeon, the Pastime, and the Airdome. A pre-1917 postcard of South Main shows the Pastime in the ground floor of the Cardin building. The Odeon, as mentioned before, was on the first block of SE 1st. No clue on where the Airdome was.

January 20, 1933

The Glory B and the Coleman both survived the Great Depression, providing entertainment which was just barely affordable enough, combined with a nice air-conditioned place to escape dust bowl summer heat.

In 1945, Miami again had three theaters, when the Ottawa opened at the same location formerly occupied by the Grand.

Ottawa Theater’s first ad, April 4, 1945

The Ottawa from the beginning advertised itself as a second-run theater, and it did well. But in 1949, the theater scene in town would be shook up by the appearance of the drive-in theater. Click the link to read the history of Miami’s drive-ins.

Sometime after 1950 (1951 and 1952 are missing from my newspaper archives), the Glory B closed its doors. By 1953, the Miami Theater had opened there, complete with a gorgeous art deco marquee.

Artist’s depiction of the Miami Theater.

Miami’s theaters peaked in 1954. There were two drive-ins, the Sooner south of town and the Tri-State to the north, and three walk-ins, the Coleman, the Ottawa, and the Miami. The Sooner would close that year after a flood, promising to reopen but never doing so. The Ottawa would close the next year. The Miami would close in 1958. It would reopen for a few weeks in 1961.

Five Miami theater ads, June 11, 1954

Obviously, television was the culprit. As more and more Miami residences obtained the one-eyed monsters, theaters felt the pinch. By the time I came along in the 60’s, it was the Coleman and the former Tri-State, renamed the Sooner early in the decade.

The Tri-State’s site is covered by a Wal-Mart. But the Coleman lives on, in what is one of the greatest historical renovations ever done. The theater where I watched Mary Poppins, The Monkey’s Uncle, and Bonnie and Clyde (thanks, brother Bill, for exposing me to some great edgy entertainment, and making me the coolest kid in the third grade) is much more beautiful now than it was then. The decrepit balcony had already been closed off by the time I was attending there.

Mention should be made of the Thunderbird Twin Theater, which was built on SE 3rd (it was Steve Owens Boulevard by then) circa 1971 by developer John Haralson. The theater remained in operation until some time in the 80’s.

And of course, Miami has a modern multi-screen cineplex. So movie theaters have run continuously here since 1914. That’s impressive, because many communities Miami’s size have stopped supporting them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *