The Crescent Theater in Mobile, Alabama, is more than just another place to watch a movie. The historic building has been an important fixture in the city for over 100 years. The experience of attending a movie at the Crescent is unlike any modern movie experience. The building was put at risk of vacancy several times over the years, but the dedication of its many local supporters has kept it in operation.
How it Started
Initially opened in 1885, the Crescent Theater gave residents an opportunity to see their favorite vaudeville-style entertainment. It continued the theme of live entertainment but also became one of the first places in the city to view silent films in 1912. In 1937, architect Cooper Van Antwerp modernized the building and the owner renamed it the Century Theater. The new name and changes to its appearance were not popular with many Mobile residents at the time.
A variety of restaurants filled the building during much of the latter part of the 20th century. A fire at a neighboring bar in 2006 caused property damage that closed the restaurant located in the theater at the time. In 2008, Max Morey leased the property and reopened it as a theater once again. Morey had decided on this plan over 20 years before during a visit to the city. One of the most popular changes he made was to bring back its original name.
The revival of the theater is credited with helping to revitalize downtown Mobile. The crowds that came to see movies also stopped at bars, restaurants and pubs. The area finally had a bustling happy hour scene that continues today.
When it Struggled
A change in technology was nearly the end of the beloved building in 2012. Theater owners needed to swap their outdated system for digital projection equipment. Costs ran higher than expected and threatened the theater. A Kickstarter fundraiser saved the day with a total of $84,000 raised to protect the business.
In 2017, a steep increase in rent left the theater at risk once again. Local fans prevented the closure this time by helping the owner reach his $72,000 fundraising goal. The non-profit Crescent Theater Film Society participated in the effort and continues to support the business.
Reasons to Visit Crescent Theater
Cosmopolitan once listed the Crescent Theater as the “coolest movie theater” in Alabama. The one-screen theater plays the latest popular releases as well as art-house and independent films that chain theaters often ignore. The building seats only 90 guests, for an intimate, small-town experience.
Common praises for the theater include the friendliness of the owner and the comfort of the theater. Leather recliners line the front of the viewing area, so the first 12 lucky patrons can enjoy the movie in comfort and luxury. The concessions stand offers the usual snacks and, surprisingly, beer and wine. Unlike many other theaters, the snack bar operates on the honor system. The owner sells tickets, welcomes everyone, locks the doors and proceeds upstairs to play the film. Guests pay for their refreshments when the movie ends.
When to Visit
The Crescent Theater operates from 10 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Showtimes are at 2 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. daily. The theater screens one film at a time for two weeks.
Mobile Bay One of the State’s Treasures
Alabama is rich with history and has many other historical sites for you to visit. One of the absolute treasures of the state is Mobile Bay. This area is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico and influences from the past can still be seen today.
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