The Tennessee Theatre turns 95 years old on Oct. 1, 2023, and to commemorate the milestone, the Official State Theatre of Tennessee is celebrating throughout the month. Beginning Oct. 1, the public is invited to attend and engage with the theatre through special anniversary events; giveaways; free tours and open houses; a scavenger hunt; and a curated social media campaign that will include historical photos and fun facts.
Anniversary events include the family-friendly “Costumes and Cartoons” on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. In addition to showing Halloween cartoons on the big screen, families will enjoy PBS Kids activities and photo opportunities. Children can dress in costumes that represent what they want to be when they grow up and explore different career paths.
“As we recognize 95 years of Tennessee Theatre history, we’re celebrating the memories and beloved experiences of millions of patrons, movie-goers, concert attendees, donors and friends,” Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said. “The theatre experience is truly community-focused, and we want to engage the public by sharing fun, unique and engaging events for everyone.”
Anniversary events for 95th anniversary celebration include:
- Sunday, Oct. 1: The public is invited to view behind the scenes and learn more about the history of the theatre through free self-guided tours and an open house. The theatre is open to the public from 1-3 p.m.
- Sunday, Oct. 1: A screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” silent film accompanied by Freddie Brabson on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ will take place at 3 p.m. Viewers will take part in the magical experience of seeing a silent film while the organ provides music and sound effects. The film is free and open to the public, and concessions will be available for sale.
- Monday, Oct. 2: Mighty Musical Monday will feature House Organist Freddie Brabson on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. Brabson will be joined by local Knoxville-favorites, the Old City Buskers, as part of the anniversary celebration. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the free event begins at noon. Concessions will be available for purchase or attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch.
- Saturday, Oct. 21: Families are invited to attend the “Costumes and Cartoons” Halloween experience. Children are encouraged to dress in costumes and enjoy cartoons and other activities, including self-guided tours and trick-or-treat stations. The event kicks off the spooky season with episodes of Wild Kratts, Arthur, Pinkalicious, Peg + Cat and more. The event is free from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Sunday, Oct. 29: The theatre will offer a special behind-the-scenes Broadway tour where the community can learn the details of executing a Broadway show on the stage from beginning to end. Doors open at 1:45 p.m. and the tour begins at 2 p.m. Space is limited; tickets are available for $40 per person.
While the celebrations commemorate the history of the Tennessee Theatre, the organization also is looking toward the future and encouraging donations to the Tennessee Theatre Youth Arts Alliance education outreach program. The alliance, founded in 2007 by the theatre, Knox County schools and corporate partner Quantum Environmental & Engineering Services, LLC, provides opportunities for the next generation to experience the arts. Donations will help the theatre continue to inspire students through the ticket subsidy program, masterclasses and workshops, the Marquee Awards and other educational programs. To mark the anniversary, a gift of $95 or any amount is encouraged.
“As we reflect on the theatre’s impact on the community over the past 95 years, we also want to look toward the future and invest in the next generation,” Hancock said. “Our hope is to support and expose youth to cultural, musical and theatrical education. We encourage the public to invest in educational outreach so that students can experience the significance and impact of performing arts.”
The Tennessee Theatre officially opened as a movie palace on Oct. 1, 1928, showing “The Fleet’s In” starring Clara Bow. Nearly 10,000 people attended, and guests also enjoyed a newsreel and musical performances including the Mighty Wurlitzer organ. Throughout the next 95 years, the Tennessee Theatre changed and evolved, struggled and flourished, and after undergoing a nearly $30 million renovation, officially reopened Jan. 14, 2005, as a dazzling entertainment palace with 21st century technical amenities and a fully restored decorative interior.
More activities, tours, stories and surprises will be shared throughout the celebration, and a full list of events is available at tennesseetheatre.com/95years.
Tickets can be purchased online at tennesseetheatre.com or by calling the box office at 865-684-1200. For details and updates, visit tennesseetheatre.com and follow Tennessee Theatre on social media: Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.
About the Tennessee Theatre
The Tennessee Theatre opened its doors in 1928 as a movie palace in the heart of downtown Knoxville and was transformed into an arts and entertainment venue after a $30 million renovation was completed in 2005. Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, today's Tennessee Theatre has something for everyone: classical music, vintage films, dance, Broadway, and stellar performances by today's hottest musicians and yesterday's favorites. The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation was established in 1996 as a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and operate the Theatre as a cultural cornerstone for the enrichment and enjoyment of all. For more information, visit tennesseetheatre.com.