Monday, June 17, 2013

Tennessee Theater and the Sudekum Building

by Debie Oeser Cox

In 1930 Tony Sudekum sold property, on Church Street at the corner 6th Ave. No., to Warner Brothers Studios. Prior to transferring the property, Sudekum, owner of Nashville based Crescent Amusement Company, had planned to build a theater on the site. Government concern over the fast growing theater industry had recently begun. Players-Lasky Corp., later Paramount, had just been found guilty of antitrust violations. These legal complications may have played a large part in the transfer of the property to Warner Brothers. Soon after the sale, excavation began on the site for a new building. A beautiful, art deco style, office building was finished in 1932, without a theater. Soon after opening, the new structure housed tenants such as physician and dentist offices, Guaranty Bank and Trust, a number of insurance agencies, a Christian Science Reading Room, a beauty shop and the Oddfellows Hall.

In 1942 Tony Sudekum, once again, became owner of the property. The deed from Warner Brothers, to Crescent Amusement, indicates plans were in the works to build a theater on the site. Sudekum hired local architects Marr & Holman to design an addition in back of the original building. Foster Creighton Company acted as general contractor. Construction on the theater shell began about 1950 and was completed in early 1952.

In February 1952 Tony Sudekum, President of Crescent Amusement Company opened the new Tennessee Theater on Church Street in Nashville. The newly designed lobby entrance to the theater was on the ground floor of the original Warner building. Inside the elegantly appointed theater, more than 2000 could be seated on the main floor and balcony. The orchestra pit in front of the stage held 25 musicians.  Actor Lex Barker, actresses Joyce Holden and Phyllis Kirk and actor comedian Joe E. Brown were among the special guests on opening night. Tennessee Governor Gordon Browning, Nashville Mayor Ben West and Davidson County Judge Beverly Briley, and many other state and local dignitaries were in attendance at the formal affair. The streets outside the theater were filled with Nashvillians, who had come to get a glimpse of the stars. A band performed on a makeshift stage in the street. Spotlights played over the building.

Ownership of the Sudekum Building was transferred in 1961 to Martin Theaters of Georgia. Crescent Amusement had been involved in an antitrust action for many years and sold a number of theaters to Martin that year as a result of the settlement. Martin Theaters sold the property in 1978 to Condra Development. After several subsequent sales the beautiful art deco Sudekum/Tennessee Theater building was demolished. In 1998 the Cumberland Apartments were constructed on the site.

Creative Commons License
Tennessee Theater and the Sudekum Building by Debie Oeser Cox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.


  1. It still disturbs me that this building was demolished, to be replaced with a concrete box apartment building. These structures are irreplaceable and yet few seem to care or appreciate the treasures that they are. Thanks for sharing this story, Debie.

  2. Debie, I totally agree! It is Nashville's loss that they chose to demolish the Tennessee yet Knoxville still has their Tennessee and for that we applaud them!


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