PLAZA 3402 Poplar Av

Opened 1953   .   Closed September 1987  .   Seats ?

Located in Poplar Plaza shopping center at Poplar Avenue and Highland Street. At one point it had a huge metal spire on top of the front of the building, which was later taken down and stored somewhere else in Memphis.  The theater was opened in 1953 and closed long ago, but during the early 1990's Bookstar renovated and occupied the space, keeping the front entrance marquee.  The plaza was a superior movie theatre.  The exterior was clad in travertine marble (along with the rest of the Poplar Plaza shopping center) with an eccentric stainless steel finial atop the marble clad vertical sign. The long lobby led patrons past the adjacent storefronts to a broad orchestra foyer. The restrooms featured curving walls,  curving leather settees and tinted mirrors.  


The auditorium opened up in a broad single  floor with a cinemascope screen braced by backlit stainless steel spirals. Behind the screen was a tiny stage, really only big enough to hold the big Altec Lansing speakers. There was room back stage for expansion if  live theatre ever came to the Plaza, but a real stage house was never built.   This is the theatre where the catch phrase "Elvis has left the building" may have originated. The plaza's facilities included party rooms and private viewing rooms on an upper floor. Elvis could go see a movie here without anyone seeing him, at least that's what he hoped. Seems one night word got out that he was in the theatre and it started a panic. He slipped out a side door and the manager wound up shouting that memorable phrase in an effort to calm the crowd.The PLAZA is listed in the 1958 Memphis Directory.  There was an earlier PLAZA at 135 N. Main listed in the 1914 Directory.

Plaza - Circa 1955


   Plaza Building 2012

Plaza BoxOffice

The "Acroterior"

1953 Ad

1953 Ad



  Cianciolo Family

1955 Ad


1964 Ad

1954 Ad


Brock Sides:  "The photo you have of the Plaza was taken on closing night by Alan Creswell. The two movies showing - Dirty Dancing and the Principal, date the photo as Sept. 1987.  As of August 2008, the spire from the Plaza was in a nook at the Fogelman College at U of M.





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