Old Peninsula Movie Theatres

Perhaps you would consider adding a new feature: 
"Old Movie Theaters in Newport News and Hampton."

How many of us had our first dates, first hand-holding, first kiss,
in those old theaters?  How many memories are out there
that might be shared ... with all due modesty, of course?

- Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 03/11/03
Thanks, Dave!  What a super idea!

This is now a place for you to record your special memories of times spent at these popular dating places. 

For a look at
Movie Theaters on the Virginia Peninsula, 1925 - 1945,



(This site, created by Emily K. Robinson of William and Mary, was also sent to us by Dave Spriggs.)

Thanks again, Dave!



- Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 04/26/05 

Before we begin, I have a confession: this did not happen in Newport News, but it did happen in a movie theater. I suppose it could have happened in Newport News, but, in fact, it happened in Roanoke. As you will soon see, geography is not really a factor. 

I was probably five years old, and my parents had taken me with them to the movies. Who ever heard of a babysitter in 1951 or even had the money for one? At five the movies were a special thrill, no matter what the film was. To be honest, I can’t remember what was playing, but I must have been quite taken by it, as will soon become evident. 

But first, a quick cultural history lesson: In those days movie patrons did not take such great pains to arrive at the beginning of a film. It was not unusual to show up somewhere in the middle, watch it through to the end, then watch the beginning to see what you had missed. It was also not unusual to remain beyond the point
in the film at which you had arrived and watch it to the end once again. And you may recall that the time between each showing was filled by previews, “selected shorts”, a cartoon, and the “News Of The Day”, which was a prime source of visual news in the days before there was a television in every home. 


That scene having been set, there we were. My recollection is that the theater was perhaps half filled, but theaters were larger back then, so that comprised quite a few people. It was the beginning of the post-war Baby Boom, and many patrons were there with their children. The film had ended, and my parents were rustling around in preparation to depart. They may have been ready to leave ... but, I was not. I stalled, begged to see the cartoon again, then pleaded to see the previews and the short subject again. As those ended, I was becoming desperate. I was determined to see the feature again, but now they were dragging me out of the seats and starting up the aisle. If I could only get through the News
Of The Day, the feature would begin again … and then we could stay, couldn’t we? I tugged, pulled, whined … but nothing was working. It was time to roll out the “Big Guns”, to make a request that even my parents could not refuse. 

So, I mustered up all the volume my little lungs could manage, injected a little edge of anger and frustration in my voice, and shouted for all to hear:


Every parent in the theater knew instantly and exactly what had happened, and erupted in laughter, which continued until we exited the movie. Even my parents were laughing at the scene of a five year old demanding to watch the “News Of The Day”. It is a story which remains etched in our Family mythology, and has been told and retold more times than I can count.


Thanks again, Dave!  What a great, classic story! 
I'm certain every parent can relate - and every "child" can remember!




Dr. Charles R. Wicke

NNHS Class of June 1945

Saturday morning was the time to head for the Street of Dreams. In Newport News this was three blocks of Washington Avenue holding four movie houses.  Plunking down a dime at the Warwick Theater allowed a frail child to enter a heroic world of daring deeds amid perfidy.  The feature film was invariably a "cowboy show" starring Buck Jones, Hoot Gibson, Roy Rogers or Gene Autry.  Accompanying this fare was the episode of a "serial," perhaps Buck Rogers in contest with the evil oriental-featured Ming - or Tarzan lording it over benighted Africans.  But first came the Kiddy Club.  At center stage a contemporary would belt out favorites of the moment: On the Good Ship Lollipop, invariably sung by a Shirley Temple look-alike rubbing her midsection while phrasing ". . . or you'll get a tummy ache," or Red Sails in the Sunset, rendered perhaps by a lad who demonstrated difficulty in reaching the low notes.

The more sophisticated fare at the Paramount Theater attracted an older audience with a higher ratio of girls.  Here one could see, for example, the "Road" pictures of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, as in The Road to Zanzibar (1941) and The Road to Morocco (1942).  The live entertainment before the picture was more sophisticated, too.  As the lights went down, the faint notes could be heard as if in the distance.  The music gradually increased as the organ slowly rose from the pit – music matching movement. As if by magic, spotlights popped on, their beams lighting upon the slight musician and mistress of ceremony at the console. She accompanied the singer soloists on the sonorous pipe organ. Her name: Gladys Lyle.

Once a year the live magic show with Harry Blackstone, Sr., played at the Paramount.  The organ background that Gladys rendered added so much to the show that one year Harry persuaded her to go with him on the road: a real road.  And so she left us, and things were never the same.

At the other end of the strip the James Theater competed with the Warwick for the young viewer.  Here was experienced The Popeye Club, with the theme song I'm Popeye the Sailor Man and a Max Fleisher Thimble Theater Popeye cartoon with its feature.   Before the films it offered the usual singers interspersed with boxing matches between volunteer pugilists who, like the vocalists, received a free admission ticket for their performance.

The remaining cinema, the Palace, had no children's show, but depended on higher quality MGM movies to attract an older audience.  Shirley Temple, the most famous female in the world, starred there in pictures with the word "little" in their titles: In 1935, The Little Colonel and The Littlest Rebel; and in 1939, The Little Princess.  Members of the NNHS Class of 1945 identified with the cute curly-head as being of the same age: someone they grew up with.

Indeed, as we left childhood we gave up the Warwick and the James for the Paramount and the Palace.  Putting aside childish things, we began to wrestle with the mysteries of puberty.   Glandular changes produced new and mysterious longings.

The silver screen came to the rescue with a timely series of motion pictures that dealt with our problems.  Offering us didactic vicarious experiences at the Palace were the Andy Hardy films, considered by their producer, Louis B. Mayer, as his contribution to the strengthening of America's family values.

As adolescents we perceived the Hardy films differently from Mayer's intent.  Girls on observing the female leads saw the growing power of their newfound nubility.  Boys readily identified with Mickey Rooney's bumbling approach to dreamlike, chaste, co-stars such as Kathryn Grayson, Judy Garland, and Ann Rutherford in pictures with descriptive titles such as: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939); Andy Hardy Meets a Debutante (1940); and Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941).  Lewis Stone played Judge Hardy, the sagacious father, whose "man-to-man" talks invariably resolved each impasse of Andy's misadventures with worldly ladies.  Oh that we could have fathers as understanding as Judge Hardy.  Oh that a boy could have a girlfriend as good-looking as Judy Garland.  Oh that a girl could become as lovely as Kathryn Grayson.

And then came that grand moment of revelation and, perhaps, confusion; an instant when life imitates art.  The fortuitous event came to pass on January 10, 1942.  Our freshman class had entered high school in September of 1941 a few weeks before.   On the following Friday afternoon the school newspaper, The Beacon, carried the headlines "Mickey Rooney Weds NNHS Grad."

1942 - Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner

A future member of the class of 1945 had to wonder who was the girl-wife of the story, Ava Gardner?  She was a member of the class that had graduated the previous year.  The older Potter girl, Virginia, the cheerleader, was her friend and had visited her in California -- she knew and could tell us. And she did.

Ava Gardner was from Smithfield, NC.  She had arrived with her mother and father, but soon after the father abandoned them. Her mother had to support herself and daughter by running a boarding house.  Ava had dated older, and presumably more sophisticated "apprentice boys" from the local shipyard.  In Hollywood she was working as a Goldwyn Girl while taking speech lessons in order to erase her southern accent.  Sam Goldwyn wanted to cast her in speaking parts.  But now Mickey Rooney -- Andy Hardy -- had married the beautiful girl next door, next door to us.

What was real and what was fantasy in all this?  As we viewed Ava's magnificent face in wide-screen color close-ups over the years and followed her stormy career, broken marriages, bouts with alcohol, those questions remained unanswered.  Fact?  Fiction?  That which had seemed to us simple and romantic on our Street of Dreams now appears to be more complex.


Dr. Charles R. Wicke is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Victoria, Canada.  In summer he lives at Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; and in winter at Cuernavaca, Mexico. Charles maintains a web site:


From Fred W. Field - ". . Street of Dreams" was originally published in 1992 in the Classes of 1945 Newsletter.  This version is Dr. Wicke's May 2005 update.

In March 1946 I gave a copy of the original version to the late Parke Rouse, Daily Press feature writer. Parke quoted it extensively in his June 1996 article ,"Cruising Avenue of Dreams." Parke died March 5, 1997.


- Courtesy of Fred Field (June of '45) of CA - Added 11/03/05
Thanks so much, Charles - and thank you, Fred, for sharing it with us!



- Courtesy of Bill Lee (WHS- '54) of NC - 03/13/10
Thank you so much, Bill!


 07/19/06  The James  3100 Washington Avenue  GONE!
 09/13/08  The Langley  Queen Street, Hampton  
 01/25/06  The Lee  Mellen Street, Phoebus  
10/07/15  The Newmarket  Newmarket Shopping Center  CLOSED - 50-Year Time Capsule Opened on 09/13/15:
http://youtu.be/MgEB6LXqkuM - Part One
http://youtu.be/R3PYuI7zjbo - Part Two
 03/02/08  The Palace  3114 Washington Avenue  CLOSED - NOW Full Gospel Church of Deliverance
 08/15/13  The Paramount  3300 Washington Avenue  CLOSED! - Site now houses Fire Station
   The Pix  26th Street and Huntington Avenue  GONE!
   The Port  At the foot of 25th Street, next to the James River beach  GONE!
 07/25/09  The Stuart (I)  2009 Wickham Avenue  GONE!
 The Stuart (II)  18th Street at Wickham Avenue  CLOSED - NOW the Triumph Pentecostal Church of Deliverance
 03/18/10  The Village  257 Warwick Boulevard, Hilton Village  CLOSED FOR FILMS - Shows Stage Productions
 09/13/08  The Warwick  3317-19 Washington Avenue  GONE!
 01/23/15  The Wythe  2221 Kecoughtan Road, Hampton  CLOSED - NOW Auto Zone
 02/25/09  The Drive-Ins    
 02/22/09  Anchor Drive-In  10121 Jefferson Avenue  GONE! NOW Francisco Village Shopping Center
 02/22/09  Green Acres Drive-In  2327 W. Pembroke Avenue, Hampton  GONE! NOW United Rentals (Construction Equipment Rentals)
 02/22/09  Sidney Lust's Drive-In  1300 Block W. Pembroke Avenue, Hampton  GONE! NOW various home improvement businesses
 02/25/09 York Drive-In  Route 17 and Victory Boulevard, Tabb  GONE! NOW Wal-Mart Super Center


I have some information on some of our old movie theaters. I have come to own a 1945-1946
Peninsula telephone directory that lists the name and address for each one.

It was interesting to note that there are no drive-in theaters listed. They must have come
shortly after this period.

- Mike Leonard ('68) of VA - 03/11/06

WOWZERS!!!  Thanks so much, Mike!


- Courtesy of Mike Leonard ('68)
of VA - 03/11/06
Thanks, Mike!

Listings from the Sunday,
January 27, 1963 issue
of the Daily Press

- Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA - 03/01/08
Thanks, Dave!

Listings from the Monday, June 10, 1963
issue of the Daily Press:

(enlargeable in two sections)

- Carol Buckley Harty ('65) of NC - 03/22/03

1954 Anchor, p. 178

- Courtesy of Tom Norris (HHS - '73)
of VA - 04/26/05
Thanks, Tom!



The following link will bring back a lot of memories to many of your readers; especially those who frequently paid 14 cents to get
into the Warwick Theater. I was amazed, when viewing this clip, that so many B movie stars rode the range on the back lots
of Hollywood when we were very young.  


FYI, there is specific permission given at the end of this presentation, allowing reuse, but only by link.

- Bill Lee (Warwick HS - '54) of NC - 09/09/08
WOW! Thanks so much, Bill!

The following link will bring back a lot of memories to many of your readers; especially those who frequently paid 14 cents to get
into the Warwick Theater. I was amazed, when viewing this clip, that so many B movie stars rode the range on the back lots
of Hollywood when we were very young.  


FYI, there is specific permission given at the end of this presentation, allowing reuse, but only by link.

- Bill Lee (Warwick HS - '54) of NC - 09/09/08
WOW! Thanks so much, Bill!

   I have three scans of movie listings in the Daily Press, 1943-1944,
two of which show the Pix Theater.

Sure enough, the location is 26th & Huntington.

- Jean Lankes (Hampton HS - ’72) of VA - 07/19/09

Saturday, July 24, 1943 Wednesday, September 20, 1944

While catching up on recent newsletters, I noticed some recent interest in old movie theaters.

In newsletter 07-19-09 Mike Leonard ('68 - of VA) asks about the Pix Theater.  My cousin, Jean Lankes (Hampton HS - ’72 - of VA) responded in 07-20-09 with a newspaper ad copy identifying the location and era of the Pix.

Considerable  information on old theaters can be found in issue 03-10-05 with participation by Kelly Loose Bustamante ('58 - of VA), Craig Miller ('63 - of FL), Ron Miller ('59 - of NC), Cookie Phillips Tyndall ('64 - of VA), Charles Wicke (June, '45), Judy Phillips Allen ('66 - of VA), and myself.

My own wordy input in that issue also revealed the Port Theater which was constructed by the Army during WW-II at the foot of 25th Street, next to the James River beach.

Also, I mentioned an original Stuart Theater which had been on Wickham Avenue.  I still haven't fulfilled my promise for more information - including a photograph - but will try to get to it soon.  In the meantime here are some more tantalizing clues:

1.  The version No. 1 Stuart Theater was located at 2009 Wickham Avenue.
2.  Nearby were a lunch room at 2003 and a billiard parlor at 2100.
3.  There are very few people alive today that could have seen these places.

Let's hold on to our history of old Newport News.

- Fred Field (June '45) of CA - 07/24/09
Thank you so much for "rescuing" that for us, Fred!

(This page was created at the suggestion of Dave Spriggs - '64 - of VA - 03/11/03)

20th Century Fox theme song midi courtesy of http://www.moviethemes.org/midis/midisa-f/20thcenturyfox.mid,
at the suggestion of Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 07/09/03
Thanks, Dave!

Page redesigned at the suggestion of Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 02/23/04
Thanks again, Dave!

Page redesigned (and re-colored) once more on 03/02/08

Animated Smacking Lips clip art courtesy of http://www.webdeveloper.com/animations/s.html - 04/10/03

Animated Sparkling Theater Lights clip art courtesy of http://gifsnow.com/ - 05/22/03

Return to NNHS Class of 1965