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Ellis Auditorium

N Main St & Poplar St
Memphis TN

Demolished 1999 Live Theatre
Record #42470  
 Opened: 1924
 Closed: Yes (date unknown)
 Demolished: 1999
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Memphis Auditorium and Market House

Information for this tour was contributed by Vincent Astor.

The Ellis Auditorium opened October, 1924, in the block stretching from Poplar to Auction along Main St. The original name for the structure was "Memphis Auditorium and Market House." It was a combination athletic arena, concert hall, convention center, and retail produce market. During the first ten years of operation, the rental income from the market stalls actually earned more money than the rental of the hall for entertainment purposes.

The Auditorium was built as a multi-purpose facility. It always had two separate theatre halls. From the 1925 brochure these were known as the Concert Hall (seating 2,500) and the North Hall (seating 6,500). Total 9,000 with a possible increase to 12,000. These other seats were between the two prosceniums (at Balcony level) and were clearly visible backstage throughout the life of the theatre though they hadn't been used in decades. The stage was about two-thirds of the way down and originally had flying proscenium arches and a stage floor that could be lowered. Thus, the entire building could be one vast amphitheater.

The asbestos in the North Hall was called the Wonder Curtain as it was soundproof as well as fireproof so both halls could be used simultaneously. Each side had a colored entrance and balcony; each side had a pipe organ. "The Jazz Singer" was screened in this building in 1929.

During its long career, windows were bricked up, chandeliers removed, neon cove lighting installed and the prosceniums made permanent. That did not prevent the stage floor from being lowered for circuses, ice shows and other arena events until the Mid-South Coliseum was built in 1963. The final remodeling included permanent theatre seating in the North Hall and the stage floor was fixed in the raised position. The building was demolished in 1999 to make way for the Cannon Performing Arts Center which opened in 2003.

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Last featured 2/12/2012. Last edited 2/17/2013.

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