The Ritz Theatre is located in the Alabama City section of Gadsden, a formerly independent town, annexed to the city of Gadsden in the 1930s. The Ritz Theatre opened on July 4, 1928, with Wallace Beery in “We’re In The Navy.” It was first located next door to its current site and spent its first five years as a nickelodeon.
The Ritz Theatre moved to its current location in 1932, into a building formerly occupied by a grocery store. The size of the grocery store can be seen on the side-wall of the building, where the style of brick changes abruptly about a third of the way up the wall. The first major renovation was in 1938 when the current lobby and balcony were constructed. This renovation also expanded the seating capacity to 800.
The next renovation came in 1948, when seats were replaced and a cry room was added at the rear of the auditorium. This was also when the exterior custom yellow brick façade was created and the current marquee and vertical sign were erected.
The Ritz Theatre screened its final program on February 20, 1965, a double-feature program of “The Time Travellers” and “Unearthly Stranger.” Gadsden Civic Theatre purchased the building and reopened the Ritz Theatre as a legitimate theatre on October 26, 1971, with the stage production of “Born Yesterday.” Gadsden Civic Theatre would later merge with two local companies to form the Theatre of Gadsden, which uses the Ritz to this day.
In 1986, the Ritz received much needed attention to its exterior with a full sprucing up of the custom yellow brick and the signage, through a community development block grant. On July 22, 2008, the TOG deeded the building to the city of Gadsden, and the major interior renovations began, which included new air conditioning, fire sprinkler system, single membrane roof, updated electrical, lobby terrazzo restoration, and re-configured the auditorium seating to the original layout.
310 N 27th Street
Gadsden, AL 35904