These historic Arkansas movie theaters are all on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these grand old theaters have been restored and are being used today for community theater groups and local festivals. Be sure to check them out in your trips around Arkansas!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
20. The Melba
The Melba, built in 1940 at 115 W. Main in Batesville, Arkansas, closed in the early 1990s and stood vacant until 2000 when it was refurbished and opened for weekend movies and musical concerts. It has been used during Ozark Foothills Film Festival events.
19. The Royal
The Royal Theatre, a vintage property at 111 S. Market Street in Benton, was renovated by actor Jerry Van Dyke in the 1990s following the end of his television show, "Coach."
18. Main Theater of Berryville
The Main Theatre, at 207 S. Main Street in Berryville, has been in continuous operation since it was built in the 1950s. Live entertainment was presented on the theater's large stage during its early years.
17. The Savage
The Savage Theatre, at 20 North Broadway in Booneville, Arkansas, was built about 1947 and screened a variety of movies on weekends.
16. The Rialto Theater
The Rialto Theatre was built in 1929 at 117 E. Cedar Street in El Dorado at a cost of $250,000. The Classical Revival structure seated 1400 people and featured stage productions, performances, and motion pictures in its early years. First owned by the Clark and McWilliams families, the Rialto continued in operation until 1980.
15. The Lyric in Harrison, Arkansas
The Lyric Theatre, built in 1929 on the north side of the Boone County Courthouse Square, operated until 1977. It remained closed until purchased by the Ozark Arts Council in 1999.
14. The Gem Theater
The Gem Theater was built in 1942 on East Main Street in Heber Springs, Arkansas in the popular art deco style. The 250-seat building closed in the late 1970s, but remained in use as a music hall from time to time. Purchased by the Cleburne County Arts Council in 1995, the theater was restored for live stage productions.
13. The Malco in Helena
The Malco, at 424 Cherry Street in Helena, has been remodeled to host special events and gospel programs. It serves as a gospel stage during the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival in October that features nationally known singers, groups, and musicians.
12. The Forum Theater
The Forum at 115 E. Monroe in Jonesboro was opened in 1926 as the Strand Theatre. With some 700 seats, it was the region's largest theater for more than 40 years. Restored in the late 1970s, the Forum is city-owned and operates under an independent commission. It's used for live stage productions and musical concerts.
11. The Scott Theater
The Scott Theatre, located at 455 South Main Street in Waldron, Arkansas, opened in October 1930 and has been refurbished and maintained throughout the years.
10. The Ritz Theater
The Ritz Theatre, at 213 S. Main Street in Malvern, opened in the 1930s and continues a daily schedule during most of the year.
9. The Lyric in Mena (Ouachita Little Theater)
Formerly known as The Lyric, located at 610 Mena Street in Mena, Arkansas, opened in 1923. At the time, it was Mena's only auditorium and the brick building was used for public events including school assemblies. Price McCall was the original owner of the Lyric, which had more than 400 seats. The theater closed in the spring of 1982. The Ouachita Little Theatre purchased and was restoring it when a tornado almost destroyed the building in 1993. The Lyric was rebuilt, but is smaller, with 225 seats.
8. The Collins Theater
The Collins Theatre, at Second and W. Emerson, was first known as the "Capital Theater." Built in 1925, it originally scheduled touring vaudeville acts and motion pictures.
7. The Saenger Theater
The Saenger Theatre, opened in 1924 on West Second Street in Pine Bluff, is now part of the Old Town Theatre Centre, which also includes the Community Theatre located across the street from the Saenger. The Community opened in 1922 in a building constructed in 1889. For a brief time it was called the Berbig Theater.
6. The Imperial Theater
The Imperial Theatre, at 302 North Marr in Pocohontas, Arkansas, was built in 1940 and served the region for more than three decades. It was transformed into a dinner theatre in the 1990s with live stage plays scheduled throughout the year as well.
5. The Malco in Hot Springs
The Malco, at 817 Central Avenue in Hot Springs, was constructed in 1935 to replace the Princess Theatre (built in 1910), that was partially destroyed by fire in 1935. The Malco was renovated in 1962 and again in 1995. It is also known as the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic since the live show started in 1996. In addition, the theater hosts events sponsored by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, including film festivals.
4. The Victory Theater
The Victory Theater, a two-story masonry structure, opened in December 1927 at 114 S. Second Street in Rogers. After closing in the early 1970s, the Victory served as a commercial business, then stood vacant until the Rogers Little Theater purchased it and started restoration efforts.
3. The Rialto in Searcy
The Rialto Theater, at 100 W. Race St., opened in 1923 and was remodeled with splashy neon lighting in the 1940s.
2. King Opera House
The King Opera House, at 427 Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas, is perhaps the only original opera house in the state that still stages live dramas and musical productions. Built in the 1880s, the King once hosted Jenny Lind and sponsored a speech by William Jennings Bryan.
1. The Rialto in Morrilton
The Rialto is a restored 1911 theater that has undergone extensive renovation and reopened in 2000. Live stage performances and musical shows are currently offered, and plans call for a return of classic movies.
It’s amazing to know how much history is packed in the Natural State, and it’s also nice to know that Arkansas doesn’t forget its cultural history by keeping many of these historic theaters maintained and preserved.