Melba Theatre

2020 2nd Avenue N,
Birmingham, AL 35203

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Additional Info

Firms: Hallmark & Haney

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Melba Theatre

Opened on March 14, 1946 with Fred MacMurray in “Pardon My Past”. This theatre premiered the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird” on April 3, 1963. Two Birmingham residents, Mary Badlam and Philip Alford were at the premier as they played Scout and Jem, Atticus Finch’s children in the Academy Award winning movie. Atticus was played by the late Gregory Peck. Mary called Mr. Peck by the name, Atticus until the day he died on June 12, 2003.

The Melba Theatre was remodeled in late-1966 to the plans or architects Hallmark & Haney, reopening with Dean Martin in “Murderer’s Row”. It was said to be the first theatre in the USA to have rocker lounger seats installed. It lasted into the early-1980’s when it was closed. It was demolished in 1984 and an 8-story parking garage now stands on the site.

Contributed by Patsy

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Patsy on March 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Lost: Yes, it does and thank you for posting about this theatre which has an important connection to the classic movie, To Kill A Mockingbird.

kencmcintyre on March 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm

This is from the Cullman (AL) Banner, dated 3/14/46:

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hury and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Griffin will attend
the opening of the Melba Theater in Birmingham Thursday (today).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 11, 2011 at 2:30 am

A photo in Tim Hollis’s book “Birmingham’s Theater and Retail District” shows the Melba Theatre next door to the Comer Building, now the City Federal Building, which is located at Second Avenue North and Richard Arrington, Jr. Boulevard (formerly 21st Street.) The City Federal Building is has been converted into an apartment complex with the address 2024 Second Avenue North, so the address of the Melba would have been about 2020 or 2022 Second Avenue North. There is now a parking garage with retail office spaces on the ground floor at this location.

Hollis’s book says the Melba was demolished in 1984. The photo includes a partial view of another theater three doors up the block from the Melba, but I can’t make out a name on its marquee, only the word theatre. Cinema Treasures has no theater listed at that location. Its site, too, has been covered by the garage building.

BamaFnNTn on May 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

The Melba was opened in 1946. It was the last theater opened new in Downtown Birmingham, and the only one that was opened as a sound venue. All the others were built previous to that and were converted to sound. A possibility for the theater three doors down is the Royal, which was along that area as well. Sadly the Melba spent the last ten years of life playing mostly re-releases from the 1950s like HOUSE OF WAX in 3D (which I saw there as a pre-teen) and movies of the almost X-Rated Grindhouse genre (didnt se those.. LOL).

It began to cater also to the Urban African American community for being the first release house for the “Blacksploitation” movies like Shaft and the Superfly series.
The Melba was also popular during this era for the Chinese “Kung-Fu” type movies featuring Bruce Lee. While the Blacksploitation and Kungfu type movies were considered B-movies in the time, they are now recognized as a special genre of movie history and the Melba was chosen to be part of that.

happywalker on June 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

Joe Vogel I believe the other theatre might have been the Empire.

rivest266 on August 18, 2019 at 8:47 am

This opened on March 14th, 1946. Grand opening ad posted.

Backseater on November 25, 2019 at 6:52 am

The Melba on 2nd Avenue North and the Empire on 3rd were both just West, not East, of 21st Street. Alabama and Lyric were on opposite sides of 3rd Avenue North at 18th Street. The Ritz was on 2nd Avenue North, a couple of blocks further West, not far from the Thomas Jefferson Hotel. The theater three doors up from the Melba was the Royal. A little further West, between 19th and 20th Streets, there was a cluster of theaters on the South side of Second Avenue North: the Galax, the Strand/Newmar, and the Alcazar/Capitol/Newmar. The names changed periodically so it can get a little confusing. The Royal, Capitol, and Galax were closed before I arrived in Birmingham at the age of nine in 1954, but I remember going to all the others.

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