Thursday, January 31, 2013

Key West Old Movie Theatres.

One of the things I’ve taken to doing in my travels recently is seek out old movie palaces or just old movie theatres. Most every town or city has them, though most are not used as theatres any longer if they even still exist.

I started doing this after thinking and writing about the great movie palaces in Hollywood and then in Denver. So why not check out other places?

Key West.
There is certainly lots to do in Key West – I addition to frequenting all the bars on Duval Street – and seeking out old movie theatres may not seem a high priority but I enjoyed it, it was right up there with visiting Hemingway’s house, Harry Truman’s Winter White house and the other rich historical places in this southernmost place in the United States.

The Strand
This is perhaps the most recognizable as a movie theatre, though it is now a Walgreen’s Drugstore. The Theatre at 527

Duval Street, may have opened as early as 1920 but was certainly showing films by 1922. In 1993, it became a Ripley’s Believe it or Not but closed in April 2002. It is now, as noted, a Walgreens. The drugstore chain has done a good job of maintaining the building’s façade and its ornate flourishes as well as the marquee. They even have movie references on the marquee. You will note in the photo a reference to the Golden Globes on the marquee. The Globes were being broadcast while I was in Key West and took the photo.

The San Carlos
This theatre, at 516 Duval is across the street from The Strand. It opened in 1924 as the home of the San Carlos
Institute but operated as a movie theatre for many years known variously as The San Carlos and The Palace. In 1953 the theatre was given a grand remodel and renamed the San Carlos, by Milton Frackman and his partners, A.W. Castro and Gerald Abreu. The had leased the building from its owner, the Cuban government and had been operating it as a movie theatre under the Palace name until the remodel. Ernest Hemingway apparently attended a movie there. He reportedly told Frackman, just before the filming of The Old Man and the Sea began, that if Frackman would book the film when it was finished, he would make a personal appearance. I don’t know if that ever happened.

The San Carlos is no longer a commercial movie house, though the auditorium is intact, the marquee is missing from the front façade. It is once again the home of the San Carlos Institute.

The Lincoln Theatre
This theatre was also operated by Frackman and his partners. The name Lincoln Theatre is appropriate as it was the

African-American theatre in Key West. The building at 813 Emma Street is now an artist’s studio and gallery. The building façade looks much as it did when it was a movie theatre with the exception that a marquee that once existed is gone.

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