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

Select a Tennessee town to find the Best Things-To-Do and Places To Go around you
Visit a Theater or Playhouse Near You
Enter City / State or Zip code below
Select your town to find the Best Things-To-Do and Places To Go around you:

Anderson County

Bedford County

Benton County

Bledsoe County

Blount County

Bradley County

Campbell County

Cannon County

Carroll County

Carter County

Cheatham County

Chester County

Claiborne County

Clay County

Cocke County

Coffee County

Crockett County

Cumberland County

Davidson County

Decatur County

Dekalb County

Dickson County

Dyer County

Fayette County

Fentress County

Franklin County

Gibson County

Giles County

Grainger County

Greene County

Grundy County

Hamblen County

Hamilton County

Hancock County

Hardeman County

Hardin County

Hawkins County

Haywood County

Henderson County

Henry County

Hickman County

Houston County

Humphreys County

Jackson County

Jefferson County

Johnson County

Knox County

Lake County

Lauderdale County

Lawrence County

Lewis County

Lincoln County

Loudon County

Macon County

Madison County

Marion County

Marshall County

Maury County

Mcminn County

Mcnairy County

Meigs County

Monroe County

Montgomery County

Moore County

Morgan County

Obion County

Overton County

Perry County

Pickett County

Polk County

Putnam County

Rhea County

Roane County

Robertson County

Rutherford County

Scott County

Sequatchie County

Sevier County

Shelby County

Smith County

Stewart County

Sullivan County

Sumner County

Tipton County

Trousdale County

Unicoi County

Union County

Van Buren County

Warren County

Washington County

Wayne County

Weakley County

White County

Williamson County

Wilson County