Amytis Theatre

4300 Saint Ferdinand Avenue,
St. Louis, MO 63120

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The Amytis Theatre, which opened in 1934, was and African-American theatre. It was closed in July 1960 and afterward demolished in preparation for a neighborhood redevelopment project that never materialized.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

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JAlex on September 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Operated from 1934 to 1960.

kencmcintyre on January 27, 2009 at 3:34 am

Spelled as Amythis in the May 1960 issue of Boxoffice magazine:

ST. LOUIS-The Amythis, 4300 St. Ferdinand Avenue, has been reopened by Mort S. Silvers, a former vaudeville entertainer and Universal Pictures employee for 40 years. Silvers had planned to reopen the house January 11 but was delayed when he was hospitalized for a long period.

JAlex on September 20, 2012 at 10:42 pm

This theatre dated from 1918 when it was the auditorium for Poro College which had been founded by Annie Malone. In February 1934 the auditorium became a commercial operation, the Amytis, and presented films and occasional stage attractions. This was one of the theatres for the Black population of St. Louis in the days of racial segregation. The last ad spotted for the theatre was published in July 1960.

The FDYB lists a seating capacity of 640.

Noir on January 26, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Missing theaters, missing buildings, vacant buildings speak of a burn factor—-the limiting of function for a whole segment of the population—with war like effects.

Denying of 97% of financial assets, ownership, income, jobs, education, and many other things—-in these previously legally segregated zones——and now in 2014, defacto they are still racially segregated zones. 99% black inside and 95% black on the fringes. AS said previously, racially segregated.

Like many other historic sites, we see no state or city preservation of what once was Poro College. There was a “manufacturing plant, a retail store, business offices, a 500-seat auditorium, dining and meeting rooms, a roof garden, dormitory, gymnasium, bakery, and chapel. It served the African-American community as a center for religious and social functions.” As an African-American woman of 1900 era, born in 1869,in the US, she is an extremely non-celebrated “great” of the past. Her business endeavers are marked with a non-descript vacant lots like tens of thousands of other vacant lots there.

Rags to riches Father a soilder in Civil War, mother escapes with children from a salve state, 10th out of eleven children, parents died, orphaned, liked chemistry-but few black schools and they had to work to survive, and ill due to poor conditions and health—so did not finish high school. Sounds like the 30% to 50% dropout rate of today and the last 30 years. Came to St. Louis, 4th largest black city population in 1902.

She rose during the era of the movie “Birth of a Nation”, White Citizen Councils, KLu Klux Klan and so on.

“In 1924 she paid income tax of nearly $40,000, reportedly the highest in Missouri. While extremely wealthy, Malone lived modestly.” She gave money to the black YMCA, black colleges and The St. Louis Black Orphans home and was President from 1919-1943. (WiKkopedia). This seemed to not bring admiration, but instead contempt—the US first black female millionare.

After almost a ¼ of a century in St. Louis and after her divorce, it appear Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone found the City of St. Louis a hostile environment and moved what was left of her operation to the strength and safety of South Side of Chicago——farther north.

The growth in the size and number of blacks in St. Louis, MO, in general, organizations, and post WWI black veterans, movement towards cities for jobs by blacks and a scant abberational handful of blacks with money seemed to cause difficulty for many Caucasians.

The call for “redevelopment” and continued segregation continued. Typically this means containment, or dispersal, control of finaces via job control or public housing. Ghettoization. Destruction of independent black businesses——even theaters——for “modernization” and “redevelopment.” Destroying self sufficiency.

Families without money, kept at the margin, cannot support theaters or buildings or invest in businesses or housing. Buildings cannot get maintenance and fall into disrepair. Re-investment from outside the segregated areas has not taken place in 70-100 years. So crumbling buildings turn into vacant lots.

Today and in the past, African American woman are forced to straighten their hair to make those in the general society feel comfortable. It would be similar to all women with straight hair being forced to chemically curl their hair to go on a job interview, go to a job, be seen in public,or be seen as militant or unprofessional. An extra cost and burden on black women, to make others with straight hair, offended by braids and afro’s, comfortable—even in 2014.

Think of the difference between Michael Jackson the singer circa early 1980’s versus later. A lighter skin color, European facial features and straight hair seemed to exponentially boost his career.

The people around many of these old theaters, did not have the money to change they’re physical appearance the way Michael Jackson did nor do they look like Beyonce, Lena Horn, Dorothy Dandridge, Vanessa Williams,Or Miley Cyrus. Would that have attracted outside investors? Maybe then these inner city theaters would have been saved—-and would not be dozens of vacant lots remembered by historians, researchers, and 600,000 city of St. Louis residents who fled to distant suburbs 60-70 years ago.

The black population has no theaters North of Delmar in the city limits-the ghetto zone.

MichaelKilgore on July 29, 2019 at 8:20 pm

From the Feb. 4, 1956 issue of BoxOffice: “ST. LOUIS – The Amythis, operated by Marvin Banks, was scheduled to close indefinitely January 30.”

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