Tyler Texas Online Liberty Hall in downtown Tyler, Texas

Liberty Hall and Early Tyler Movie Theaters


Details inside Liberty Hall in Tyler Texas
Details inside Liberty Hall (TylerTexasOnline staff photo)

Movie-going patrons in Tyler have had a wide selection of movie theaters to choose from over the years, including those downtown and drive-in theaters on the outskirts of the city as well.

The Liberty Theater originally was opened in 1930 by Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Shieldes as a first-run movie theater on the south side of the Tyler square, and continued in operation for 50 years.

A restoration project was conceived by the City of Tyler and the East Texas Symphony Organization in an effort to promote tourism and business for downtown Tyler and the surrounding area.

The City of Tyler purchased the building in 2008 for $180,000, and subsequently renovated it using donations of over $1 million. Major support was provided by The Genecov Group of Tyler.

The Liberty, at 103 E. Erwin, is once again home to memory-making events and entertainment after it was converted into Liberty Hall and re-opened in September 2011.

The hall is the locale for a variety of quality entertainment, ranging from nationally known artists to regional and local entertainers from all genres of music, comedy, theater as well as classic movies. The theater is also available for rental to other organizations that present entertainment as well as for civic and private functions.

For more information about upcoming events and tickets, visit the official website of Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall: major support provided by The Genecov Group
Liberty Hall: major support provided by The Genecov Group
Liberty Hall, downtown Tyler Texas, with skyline in background

 

Downtown Tyler Movie Theaters of the Past

Streetscape, downtown Tyler Texas, including the site of the Arcadia Theater

In addition to the Liberty Theater, downtown Tyler was also the location of several other movie houses such as the Tyler Theater, Arcadia, Queen, Majestic, Joy and Palace.

The Arcadia, opened on October 15, 1925, was located on 121 North Spring Street and featured 585 seats. The theater showed the very first “talking motion picture” in Tyler on February 13, 1929.

Two other theaters had occupied this site, the Theatorium and the Queen. The streetscape scene to the right in downtown Tyler Texas includes the site of the Arcadia Theater. Today, the theater has been renovated by the Martin Walker Law Firm whose offices are now located in the historic structure.

The Tyler Theater

The Tyler Theater, opened at the corner of South Broadway and West Erwin streets on August 2, 1940. It closed in September, 1982.

Today, parts of the theater remain standing on that corner, including the vertical sign (see photo to right).

Tyler Theater, downtown Tyler Texas

Tyler Drive-in Movie Theaters

In addition to the theaters downtown, on the outskirts of Tyler were several drive-in theaters. Most were opened in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Movie-going patrons had theaters such as these to choose from:

  • Crest - 2201 West Bow Street near Gentry Parkway
  • Rose Garden - 2502 East Fifth Street near present-day Loop 323E
  • Apache - at its original location on Highway 31 West
  • Starlite - on the Kilgore Highway

Starlite Drive-in Theatre

The Starlite Drive-in Theatre was located on the northwest corner of East Erwin Street and present-day Loop 323, across from the Stewart Airport and the original studios of KLTV.

It opened in the late 1940s, and closed in 1973. The Starlite featured 465 "in-the-car speakers", two entrance gates at the box office and two shows nightly. Refreshments included hot dogs, hamburgers, pop corn, ice cream, candy, cold drinks and fresh orange-ade. It advertised itself as "East Texas' largest drive-in theatre".

The Starlite also featured clean rest rooms, and all the grounds were hard-topped ... so no mud, no dust! The kiddies's play ground had swings and a sand box. Plus 150 lawn chairs were available.

After its closure in 1973, it briefly operated as the Circle Drive-in.

Early USGS Topo map showing the Starlite Drive-in
Map showing the location of the Star-lite Drive-in Theater in Tyler Texas
Aerial map of the Starlite Drive-in circa 1995
Aerial map of the Starlite Drive-in Theatre in Tyler, Texas, on the Kilgore Highway, circa 1995


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