32 W. Adams Street,
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Architects: Roy A. Benjamin
Previous Names: Arcade Theatre
News About This Theater
From the Jacksonville, FL Times-Union, September 6, 2002:
"The Center Theatre, opened in 1915 as the Arcade Theatre, was the last standing of the 12 downtown Jacksonville, FL movie theatres that thrived during the early 20th Century. With its collapse in the early morning hours of September 5, 2002, the only theatre from the era that remains is the Florida Theatre.
The two-story building opened in 1912 as a vaudeville house and was converted to a movie theatre in 1915. It was initially named the Arcade Theatre because of dual entrances and box offices on Adams Street and Forsyth Street that were connected by an arcade-type hallway, according to Times-Union archives.
The single-screen movie house featured silent films throughout its early existence when movie-going was a high society dress-up event. At its pinnacle, the theatre could seat up to 1,580 viewers at a single showing.
Under new ownership in 1960, the theatre was renovated and renamed the Center Theatre. Over time, growing multi-screen theatres building adjacent to malls in the suburbs overshadowed the single-screen movie houses downtown.
By the late-1970’s, most of the downtown theatres were closed and the Center Theatre was struggling to remain profitable by showing kung fu movies primarily to black audiences. The movie house closed on January 2, 1983, after showing two martial arts flicks.
Preservationists were hoping some of the theatre’s Art Deco style façade could be saved before demolition. Cynthia Neal, owner of a business that specializes in the redevelopment of downtown historic buildings, said she hoped several architectural elements were not lost with the rubble.
‘Safety is first. Then, if we can preserve any of the historical features of the building is my second concern,’ said Neal, owner of revitalization company Southworth McDowell.
A representative of Center Partners Limited, the owner of the theatre, said immediate plans are to safely clear the area, and they have not made any decisions about what the property will be used for in the future."
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