Saturday, March 6, 2010

Academy Theatre, 535-537 8th St. S. E., Washington D.C.

We never went to the Academy when I was a child growing up in the 1950s.  The concept of the Eighth Street corridor being an unsafe war zone lost on my youthful mind.  According to my father, the Academy showed Mexican films briefly in the late 1950s or just before closing in 1961. He worked at the nearby Navy Yard and enjoyed stopping to talk Spanish with the cashier. That was the story he told us and I can’t vouch for its validity.

An early movie show carved out of a pre-existing building, the Academy opened as the Meaders in 1910. This tiny theatre, with 400 seats, did have dressing rooms for an occasional live show. Its policy of showing fourth-run movies apparently set from the beginning. The space, renovated by the Stanley-Crandall Company, opened as the New Theatre in 1927.  The name changed briefly to the Family when Sidney Lust took over management three years later. Finally in 1933, it  became the Academy.
Like many of the small early movie houses, in the  poorer neighborhoods of Washington D.C., the Academy survived on a diet of  triple feature re-runs. That is with the possible exception of the Mexican films mentioned above.
And like many of these theatres, converted to a church when its days as a movie house had run its course. The Academy becoming a place of worship, under the Rev. Fred W. Hall, in 1962.

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