The 10 Best Historic Theaters in Tennessee!

Before televisions invaded every home in America, folks in Tennessee spent their evenings at the theater. Stage plays and traveling shows eventually gave part of their audience share to silent films, and later “talkies,” but the love of all things performance art remained strong. No matter the kind of artistic performance you’re looking for, you might just hear the echoes of delight from decades past when you step inside these 10 best historic theaters in Tennessee. 

1. Orpheum Theatre, Memphis, TN

This former opera houses bears nearly a century of history and Memphis tradition. Situated on the corner of Beale and Main, the theatre was home to traveling vaudeville shows and was once touted as the finest opera house outside of New York City. The original theatre burned to the ground in 1923, but a second Orpheum Theatre was resurrected on the same spot just five years later. This grandiose theatre has undergone multiple renovations since then and it still stands today, having been the largest movie palace in Memphis history and still featuring touring Broadway shows and other entertainment acts.

A post shared by Ricci (@riccialexis) on

2. Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN

This grand theatrical palace has been the center of Knoxville’s stage and screen since 1928. Touted as the most beautiful theatre in Tennessee, guests paid as little as 40 cents to see their favorite stars on the screen. Its rich European architecture and stunning domed ceiling continue to mesmerize fans today, where they now enjoy stage productions, concerts, and other performing arts (though prices have increased quite a bit since its early heyday).

3. The Roxy Theater, Nashville, TN

Located in the once-thriving Roxy district, the Roxy Theater was the heart and soul of Nashville nightlife. Nashville locals loved this historical theater so much that it sparked a grassroots movement to ensure the theater’s preservation. The theater was sold in 2016 for a jaw-dropping $1.3 million, and rumors say the new owners plan to repurpose the building to uphold its heritage. 

4. The Capitol Theatre, Lebanon, TN

Lebanon’s town square hosts one of its most historical gems—the Capitol Theatre. The Capitol opened its doors in 1949 as a technicolor movie house and boasted an impressive 1000-seat viewing area. The theatre shuttered and remained vacant for many years, but now having been fully restored, the theatre is now home to performing arts, movie screenings, and venue rentals. 

5. The Capitol Theatre, Maryville, TN

The Capitol Theatre’s (different one!) stunning marquee and Art Deco stylings hint at its age as a historical theatre. Seating just under 1,000 viewers, Maryville’s largest movie house operated circa 1934 until the 1970s. Upon its closing, several businesses moved into (and out of) the space, including a dress store, disco, and a record store. The theatre underwent major renovations, transforming it into a space ideally suited for dinner theatre and upgrading the sound and lighting systems. The venue is also an enviable spot for weddings and other events.

6. The Franklin Theatre, Franklin, TN

1937 marked a new era for Franklin residents as the brand-new movie theatre featured its first show. The 70+ years that followed saw many changes in local lifestyles, but the theatre remained a significant icon in the town’s history. The screen went dark in 2007, but a non-profit preservation group saw the theatre’s potential and invested a cool $8 million to retaining this important piece of Franklin culture. Today, visitors can catch a movie, concert, or other event inside its walls, just as generations have done for decades.

7. The Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, TN

Known as Nashville’s nonprofit theater, the Belcourt was once a silent movie house and performance stage during its initial rise to Music City stardom. At the time, it had the largest, most sophisticated projection system and biggest stage in the city. The theatre was most recently renovated in 2015-2016 and now offers a packed schedule of documentaries and indie films. 

8. The Palace Theater, Gallatin, TN

With over a century of history hidden inside, this former silent movie house and community theater is Tennessee’s oldest original theater that still stands in its original location. Today, you can still catch a good flick at this historic theater that now boasts a modern sound system and other upgrades. In addition, the theater is available to rent for events like weddings, fundraisers, and concerts.

9. The Palace Theatre, Crossville, TN

Originally opened in 1938, the Palace Theatre was once the hub of entertainment in the Cumberland Plateau. Jazz, country, and bluegrass musical acts were no strangers to its stage. The theatre still serves as a community hot spot today, having been fully restored beyond its former grandeur to delight a new generation of theatre-goers.

10. The Grove Theater, Oak Ridge, TN

It’s first show was in 1944, and has experienced various phases of growth and decline since then. Originally established as a concert venue, the meticulously designed hardwood stage was eventually walled up to make way for a screen-and-projector setup. The folks in Oak Ridge recognized the value of this little slice of history and have fully restored the theater and its purpose to the community, offering a spot for fundraisers, concerts, dance camps, and musical performances.

A post shared by htrosen (@htrosen) on

Tennessee Search
View more Tennessee Theaters and Playhouses.
Visit a Theater or Playhouse Near You
Find Theaters and Playhouses Near You
110 West Church Street, Lewisburg, TN
When has your organization or business needed an auditorium or recital hall? The Dixie Theatre building will not only be the home of the Marshall C... Read More
208 West College Street, Dickson, TN
About: Mrs. Potts' Playhouse is a tearoom offering children's tea parties as well as wonderful gifts for ages infant through teens. Mrs. Potts may... Read More
3037 Forest Hill-Irene Road, Germantown, TN
Mission Statement: To entertain, educate, engage, and enrich the community through family-oriented, theatrical programming. About Us: Germantown Co... Read More
1801 Exeter Road, Germantown, TN
Mission:GPAC serves the community by presenting the highest quality artistic endeavors to engage, enrich, and transform.History:As early as the 198... Read More
140 Showplace Boulevard, Pigeon Forge, TN
221 Tennessee Avenue, Crossville, TN
History: In 1963, Crossville, Tennessee was a town you passed through on the way to other places. Located in Cumberland County, the town and surro... Read More
10 East Broad Street, Cookeville, TN
About Us: The Cookeville Performing Arts Center is a 456 seat live performance theatre owned by the City of Cookeville and operated by the Departme... Read More
2211 Old Hickory Boulevard, Old Hickory, TN
History: Twenty-five years ago, a popular acting troupe known as The Lakewood Theatre Company did their performances in unusual locations, such as... Read More
907 Shady Circle, Centerville, TN
Wood and Strings Theatre uses the captivating and comprehensive nature of art to engage the imagination, create experiences full of meaning and pro... Read More
502 S Anderson St, Tullahoma, TN
About Us: The playhouse that originally was instrumental in renovating the South Jackson theatre was a profit sharing resident beginning in 1979.&... Read More
630 Perkins Extension, Memphis, TN
BOX OFFICE HOURS Mondays: Closed Tue – Fri: 10am - 5pm PERFORMANCE WEEKDAYS: Thurs – Fri: 6pm - Curtain PERFORMANCE WEEKENDS: ... Read More
120 South 1st St, Union City, TN
History :   Masquerade Theatre, Inc. has been producing theatrical productions for 16 years including musicals, comedies, dramas, child... Read More
211 North Church Street, Mountain City, TN
About Us: Between 1966 and 2005 a performance stage-as Shakespeare would have recognized it-did not exist in Mountain City or Johnson County, ... Read More
600 East Maple Street, Johnson City, TN
Johnson City was 14 years old when its first theater group was formed in 1885. Preachers at the Methodist churches in town took to their pulpits, p... Read More
1200 East Center Street, Kingsport, TN
Our History Kingsport Theatre Guild, Inc.  is one of the oldest community theaters in the state, this year embarking on its 62nd year of contin... Read More
512 State Street, Bristol, TN
Theatre Bristol, located in Bristol, Tennessee, originally established in 1965 as the Bristol Children’s Theatre, is a community theatre with... Read More
203 South Main Street, Memphis, TN
The Orpheum Theatre is truly one of Memphis' most remarkable success stories; a theatre able to overcome a variety of adversities that ranged from ... Read More
440 West Powell Road, Collierville, TN
The Harrell Performing Arts Theatre, through The Collierville Arts Council, is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in performing, musical and vi... Read More
803 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN
Mission The mission of the Bijou Theatre is to provide an excellent performance venue for the Knoxville community at reasonable cost for presentat... Read More
Show More
Select a Tennessee town to find
the Best Things-To-Do and Places To Go around you
Bledsoe County
Clay County
Lewis County
Moore County
Pickett County
Sequatchie County
Trousdale County
Van Buren County