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February 26, 2014

Looking Back: Birmingham 8 Movie Theater

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By Jennifer O’Hare,
Program Assistant Birmingham Historical Museum and Park

Construction of the Birmingham Theater building began in 1926 and was completed one year later on what is now Old South Woodward. The building had three floors, including a bowling alley, a billiard parlor, and retail and office spaces.

The main attraction, however, was the Birmingham Theater. Originally a vaudeville theater, by the late 1930s the theater had been converted into a movie house, which it remained until its closing in the early 1960s. A development group purchased the theater in 1976 and converted it into a live theater, with its first stage show, “Oh! Calcutta!,” opening in October 1977.

Over the next 20 years, the theater featured comedians, musicals, vocalists and plays. However, by the mid-90s, the theater was in financial trouble and faced demolition. Luckily, Birmingham residents Carole and David Trepeck, and Dallas resident Bill Herting purchased the theater in early 1995 and extensively renovated it, converting it into the cinema it is today.

Despite the theater’s troubles, the retail spaces and offices were consistently occupied by local businesses. One of the most famous occupants was CREEM Magazine — dubbed “America’s only rock ‘n’ roll magazine” — which occupied the entire second floor during the 1970s.

For more information about CREEM Magazine and its role in Birmingham’s music history, visit the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park’s music exhibit, “The Sounds of Birmingham,” beginning in March.

The Birmingham Historical Museum and Park is located at 556 W. Maple Road in Birmingham. Call (248) 530-1928 or visit www.bhamgov.org.