Tennessee Theatre

604 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902

604 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 684-1200
Region: Downtown

Celebrating 90 Years in 2018!

With over 150 events each year, the fully restored historic Tennessee Theatre has something for everyone: Broadway shows, classic films, opera, concerts, dance and more!

After a $25.5 million restoration completed in January 2005, the theatre is a world class performing arts center and has welcomed over 1.7 million guests since its reopening. The Tennessee Theatre opened as an opulent movie palace in October 1928.

Designed by Chicago architects Graven & Mayger, the Theatre has a Spanish-Moorish style interior that incorporates elements from all parts of the world: Czechoslovakian crystals in the French-style chandeliers, Italian terrazzo flooring in the Grand Lobby, and Asian influences in the carpet and drapery patterns.

Come experience the unforgettable at the Official State Theatre of Tennessee!

Having a 90th birthday is a major milestone. The historic Tennessee Theatre reaches nine decades in October 2018, having created cherished memories for countless guests over the years. We look forward to celebrating this anniversary, but let’s first look back on the Theatre’s history.

Opening October 1, 1928, the Tennessee Theatre was built to impress. Movie palaces -- dripping with crystals, wrapped in velvet, and glittering in gold -- were all the rage in the flapper era, designed to make patrons feel like royalty from the moment they entered. A quintessential flapper girl, Clara Bow, was the first actress to grace the Tennessee’s silver screen in “The Fleet’s In.” The house band Don Pedro and his Melody Boys also entertained that day, and Ms. Jean Wilson played the Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

Thousands more movies followed, such as a week-long screening of Disney’s first feature-length animation, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” entertaining 70,000; and a world premiere of “So This is Love” honoring Knoxville’s own Grace Moore. There were live performances, too, by cowboy star Tom Mix, Broadway legend Helen Hayes, jazz great Glenn Miller, and the original funny girl, Fannie Brice.
The screening of “To Kill A Mockingbird” in April 1963 held special significance: it was the first time African-Americans were allowed to attend the Tennessee Theatre. Prior to then, like many places in the South, the Tennessee was segregated. Peaceful protesters changed the course of history on that memorable spring day.

The Tennessee experienced hard times in the 1970s, when its opulence fell out of fashion and modern multi-screen theaters ran more efficiently. Hope came from a radio broadcaster, Jim Dick, who loved the dilapidated Theatre enough to purchase it in 1981 and save it for future glory. Dick Broadcasting operated the Tennessee during a time of transition from a movie theater to a live performance venue.
In 1996, Tennessee Theatre ownership was transferred to a nonprofit organization tasked with preserving and transforming the space to ensure its use for many decades to come. The nonprofit embarked on an ambitious campaign to fully restore and renovate the historic landmark, a project that cost almost $30 million and took 19 months to complete.

Since reopening in 2005, the resplendent Tennessee Theatre has played a central role in the revitalization of downtown by hosting 2000+ live performances from rock to classical, screening scores of vintage films, and entertaining all ages year-round. Today the nonprofit strives to serve a wide audience, enriching the lives of residents and visitors alike. Its magnificent interior and beloved sign on Gay Street have become part of Knoxville’s identity.

The Theatre’s history is full of fascinating stories, too numerous to list here. Explore our timeline at tennesseetheatre.com/discover to learn more. We expect great memories to be made during our 90th anniversary year – please join us!

  • Brit Floyd - Immersion World Tour 2017

    • Tennessee Theatre

    The hotly anticipated rock event of the year returns, as Brit Floyd brings the music of Pink Floyd to life once again with its lavish new stage show,

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  • St. Vincent Fear the Future Tour

    • Tennessee Theatre

    Musician and songwriter Annie Clark - aka St. Vincent - is one of the most distinctive artistic voices and arrestingly original guitarists of her

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  • Chris Tomlin Christmas: Christmas Songs of Worship

    • Tennessee Theatre

    Touted by TIME Magazine as “the most often sung artist anywhere,” on any given Sunday tens of millions of people in churches across the globe sing

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  • Jennifer Nettles

    • Tennessee Theatre

    Superstar entertainer Jennifer Nettles is one of the most admired and animated performers. ASCAP has honored her songwriting prowess with five awards,

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  • Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Celebration Tour 2017

    • Tennessee Theatre

    Theirs is one of the most distinctive and recognizable sounds in the music industry. The four-part harmonies and upbeat songs of The Oak Ridge Boys

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  • Robert Earl Keen’s "Merry Christmas from the

    • Tennessee Theatre

    Robert Earl Keen has blazed a peer, critic, and fan-lauded trail that’s earned him icon and keeper of the flame status in Americana music. With 19

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  • It's A Wonderful Life

    • Tennessee Theatre

    Join us for a classic holiday film screening of “It’s a Wonderful Life” presented by Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union! Released in 1946 and

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  • NEEDTOBREATHE: All The Feels Tour (Acoustic)

    • Tennessee Theatre

    SOLD OUT! South Carolina rock band NEEDTOBREATHE has seen their fair share of ups and downs over the course of their career, but their latest chapter

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  • Kinky Boots

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Dec 15, 2017 - Dec 17, 2017

    Kinky Boots is Broadway’s huge-hearted, high-heeled hit! With songs by Grammy® and Tony® winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper, this joyous musical

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  • Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Dec 15, 2017 - Dec 17, 2017

    Celebrate this Christmas with the experience taking North America by storm! Marking the 25th North American Anniversary Tour in 2017, Moscow Ballet’s

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  • Elf: The Broadway Musical

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Dec 30, 2017 - Dec 31, 2017

    Elf The Musical is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the

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  • Bohemian Rhaposides: Dvorak, Smenta & More

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Jan 18, 2018 - Jan 19, 2018

    What does it mean to be “Bohemian?” This energetic concert is inspired by wandering artists new and old. The KSO will welcome the unique PROJECT Trio,

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  • Cabaret

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Jan 26, 2018 - Jan 27, 2018

    Based on Roundabout Theatre Company’s Tony Award®-winning production, SAM MENDES (Skyfall, American Beauty) and ROB MARSHALL’S (Into the Woods and

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  • The Black Jacket Symphony: Tom Petty’s Damn the

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Jan 26, 2018 - Jan 27, 2018

    The Black Jacket Symphony returns to the Tennessee Theatre to perform Tom Petty’s "Damn The Torpedoes" album in it’s entirety! The Black Jacket

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  • Valentine's Weekend: Russian Passion

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Feb 15, 2018 - Feb 16, 2018

    The KSO Masterworks, conducted by Aram Demirjian, romances audiences in February with music from Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” suite. The Orchestra

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  • Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Feb 15, 2018 - Feb 16, 2018

    RAIN - A Tribute to The Beatles celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band! For the first time ever, RAIN

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  • The Wizard of Oz-The Spectacular New National Tour

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Mar 2, 2018 - Mar 4, 2018

    There truly is no place like home as the greatest family musical of all time, the wonderful WIZARD OF OZ, twists its way into Knoxville! The entire

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  • Power Rangers Live!

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Mar 2, 2018 - Mar 4, 2018

    Go! Go! Power Rangers! Power Rangers, the global pop culture phenomenon, is celebrating 25 morphinomenal years and is heading to a city near you with

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  • Carmina Burana

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Mar 15, 2018 - Mar 16, 2018

    Music Director Aram Demirjian continues the mighty Masterworks season with Mahler’s Blumine, Weill’s Suite from The Threepenny Opera, and Orff’s

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  • Motown The Musical

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Apr 6, 2018 - Apr 8, 2018

    It began as one man’s story… became everyone’s music… and is now Broadway’s musical. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown

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  • Mozart Piano Concerto

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Apr 12, 2018 - Apr 13, 2018

    This springtime Masterworks brings music of Mazzioli, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, and Schumann’s Symphony No. 2. The first and third pieces of the

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  • Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • May 1, 2018 - May 6, 2018

    Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the

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  • American Voices

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • May 17, 2018 - May 18, 2018

    The May Masterworks ends the season with an all-American program, conducted by Aram Demirjian, featuring Aaron Copland (Fanfare for the Common Man),

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  • The Book of Mormon

    • Tennessee Theatre
    • Jul 10, 2018 - Jul 15, 2018

    The New York Times calls it “the best musical of this century.” The Washington Post says, “It is the kind of evening that restores your faith in

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