1800 Third Avenue North , Birmingham, AL 35203
Built in 1914 the Lyric featured entertainers from across the U.S. such as Buster Keaton, Will Rodgers, the Marx Brothers and Mae West. After its closing in 1958 and years of neglect, the building was acquired in 1991 by Birmingham Landmarks, Inc. Currently, the Lyric Theatre sits as an empty and forgotten structure with much potential for downtown Birmingham. Plans for the Lyric include a large fundraising campaign beginning in 2009 for the restoration of the theatre as a performing arts center.
Theatre History – Vaudeville Days
Built in 1914 for B.F. Keith’’s Vaudeville circuit, the Lyric is one of the few theaters still existing that was specifically built to maximize the acoustics and close seating needed for vaudeville shows. Major stars such as the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Will Rogers, and Milton Berle played the Lyric. Berle said it was ‘as fine a theater as any in New York.’ During the 1920s it was the custom to attend shows at the Lyric Theatre on Monday nights – if you could get a reservation. Tickets cost from 25 to 75 cents. In summer, air was fanned over two tons of ice a day to keep customers cool. Though seating was segregated the Lyric was one of the first places in the South where blacks and whites could watch the same show at the same time for the same price.
Save the Lyric Theatre – Dollars and Sense
The Lyric was once the finest performing arts theatre in the city – and could be again. The Lyric offers a wider stage and closer audience – better suited for performing arts such as the symphony, ballet, opera and theatre. In addition, the Lyric Office Building, which shares lobby space on three floors with the theatre, could be adapted for arts organization administrative offices. "A restored Lyric Theatre could immediately host the 100+ events the Alabama Theatre now turns away annually and create an economic impact of an additional $5 million dollars a year for Birmingham, creating as many as 200 construction and permanent jobs." A master architectural plan has been created, some repairs have been made, and the historic painted advertsing sign on the back of the theater has been restored. Hundreds of volunteers have worked tirelessly to help in the clean-up efforts so far