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Buildings We Love: Belle Meade Theatre

Updated: Jul 23, 2023


The Belle Meade Theater first opened on May 1, 1940 and was built by Tony Sudekum’s Crescent Amusement Company. At the time Sudekum owned most of the movie theaters in Nashville as well as the popular Hippodrome Roller Skating Rink on West End Avenue.

Sudekum’s early theaters were located in downtown including the Princess and Knickerbocker Theaters which started in the silent movie era and later were converted to sound.

The new Belle Meade Theater located in the suburbs reflected the changing development in Nashville and neighborhoods grew and housing and retail moved out of downtown. Tony believed his buildings should set the tone on the outside for the entertainment on the big screen on the inside.

Nashville based architects Marr & Hollman (who also designed the Broadway Post Office, which is now Frist Museum) created this art deco masterpiece which included a substantial marquee with an eighty foot tower featuring neon, fluorescent and colored lights and large “Belle Meade” on the sign. The $250,000 building was made of white Georgia marble and red brick with granite and aluminum trim.

The interior theater was the largest movie house in town with 1,200 seats, and the widest aisles and seats of any theater in Nashville. It had a soaring two story lobby with walnut walls, mirrors, and modern air conditioning. Nashvillians remember the autographs in the lobby of famous people and actors who would visit the Belle Meade Theater.

Historically most of Nashville’s Crescent Amusement Company grand theaters have been torn down including the Belmont, the Tennessee and the Knickerbocker. Although no longer operated as a movie theater, the Belle Meade Theater is the oldest commercial building in the Harding and White Bridge Road area.

Generations of Nashvillians have enjoyed seeing movies in this dynamic structure and going to Moon’s Drugs which was in the building complex which originally had five stores. The Belle Meade Theater is not only historic, but also beautiful and deserves to be preserved so future generations can enjoy this building and big marquee.

David Steele Ewing is a ninth generation Nashvillian and the owner of Nashville History On Tour. Instagram @TheNashvilleIWIshIKnew

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