Downtown Theatre

3100 Washington Avenue,
Newport News, VA 23607

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Neighborhood Theatres, Paramount Pictures Inc., Publix Theaters Corporation

Previous Names: Olympic Theatre, James Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Downtown Theatre

The Olympic Theatre was opened October 17, 1910. On December 11, 1932 it was taken over by Publix and was renamed James Theatre. By 1943 it was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary M.A. Lightman. It was closed August 3, 1967. The following day, August 4, 1967 it reopened as the Downtown Theatre, screening Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”. By the end of 1967 it had become a XXX adult movie theatre which closed August 6, 1980. It was demolished around 1983.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Downtown Newport News, by William A. Fox (Google Books preview), gives a brief history of this house. It was in operation as the Olympic Theatre prior to 1931, when it was taken over by Publix, remodeled, and renamed the James Theatre. Publix operated the house only until 1934, when it was taken over by the local chain Dominion Theatres. At some point it was renamed the Downtown Theatre. In its last days it showed adult movies, and was closed in 1978. The roof of the theater collapsed on January 12, 1983, leading to its demolition.

The caption of this historic photo from the Newport News Public Library says that the Olympic Theatre was built in 1911. I found a period source indicating that the house was in operation by December of that year.

The Library of Virginia’s weblog, Out of the Box, has an interesting item about a performance that took place at the Olympic Theatre in 1912, leading to the arrest of the theater manager and a dance troupe. That younger generation! What was the world coming to?

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on April 20, 2012 at 2:33 am


Downtown Theater


wsasser on September 21, 2012 at 1:09 am

The first theater at this location was The Olympic, it operated from Oct 17, 1910 to Nov. 10, 1932

The James opened on Dec 11, 1932 and closed on Aug 3, 1967

On Aug 4, 1967, the Theater opened as the Downtown. It closed for good on Aug 6, 1980. The Downtown opened as a part of the Gordon chain but at some time, it was sold and became a XXX movie theater.

wsasser on November 18, 2016 at 3:18 am

I just posted a news story in the Daily Press Newspaper showing the Oct. 17, 1910 date. Check it out

rivest266 on March 20, 2017 at 9:00 pm

December 11th, 1932 Grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on March 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

This opened on August 9th, 1967 as Downtown with “The Sound of Music”. Not the 4th as wasser reports. Started to show adult movies by the end of 1967. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

wsasser on March 23, 2017 at 2:39 am

While they may have had a Grand Opening or something on Aug 9th as reported by rivest266, on Oct 4th, they reopened at 5 p.m. playing a double feature while advertising that they were also renovating. See ad just posted in photo section.

DavidZornig on October 5, 2018 at 12:11 am

James Theatre matchbook added courtesy of Marty Carlo‎.

50sSNIPES on September 4, 2021 at 12:04 am

I Don’t Know If Either The James Or The Paramount Has An Installation Of An Iron Fireman WhirlPower Space Conditioner, Installed And Serviced By Spiers Service Authorized Distributor Of 2214 Wickham Avenue, Newport News, Both 1.5 Miles Between Both Theaters And Spiers. I Think It Came From The James, But I Could Be Wrong Though.

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