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The Belcourt Theatre mission is to preserve The Belcourt Theatre, a singular entity that sets Nashville apart from every other city, by...
...reclaiming historic space to revitalize a cultural anchor for the diverse Nashville community,
...providing a variety of select films and performing arts to stimulate dialogue and delight in a vibrant, inviting atmosphere, and
...executing a sound business plan and a comprehensive fundraising strategy to ensure the long-term success of the theatre.
For over 75 years, The Belcourt Theatre has provided a space for premiere entertainment in the heart of Nashville's Hillsboro Village. During this time, The Belcourt has existed in many incarnations - each of which has furnished a home for some of the city's best and most unusual performing arts. Opening in 1925 as the Hillsboro Theatre, The Belcourt originally operated as a silent movie house, boasting the most modern projection equipment and the largest stage in the city. As the community grew, The Belcourt adapted to the new needs of the neighborhood by providing a regular home for two highly successful performance groups. The Children's Theatre of Nashville, the longest running children's theatre of its kind, and the venerable Grand Ole Opry both shared The Belcourt stage during the 30's. The Opry's tenure from 1934 to 1936 shaped the format the radio show still uses today. Due to the intimate size of the room, the Opry began playing each show to two separate audiences. Performers found themselves playing two fifteen-minute performances rather than the single half-hour performance to which they were accustomed.
By 1937, The Belcourt was renamed the Nashville Community Playhouse and continued to shine as a space flexible enough to house both film and live theatre. The playhouse featured works by its own Actor's Guild supplemented by a variety of community events and educational and historical events. In 1966 The Belcourt returned to its original use as a movie theatre and the name changed once again to The Belcourt Cinema. For nearly 30 years, the Massey family, in conjunction with Carmike Cinemas, ran the theatre as a successful movie house. Neighborhood theatres, such as Belle Meade, Loews, and The Belcourt, thrived through the 70's, but the landscape of the Nashville theatre industry changed in the following decade. The economics of the business led corporate owners to emphasize multi-screen theatre tied to shopping mall developments. When the Belle Meade Theatre was converted to a bookstore in 1993, The Belcourt became the last traditional neighborhood movie house in Nashville.
At the conclusion of Carmike's lease in 1997, the Watkins Film School joined with Belcourt LLC to manage the building. Faced with increasing pressure from emergent multiplexes, Watkins brought in classic, unique, and challenging fare not previously available in Nashville. Despite this strong programming, the theatre and its management were unable to galvanize and build a local audience, and in early 1999, the Watkins Belcourt was ultimately forced to close. Shortly thereafter, Belcourt LLC reached an agreement to lease the property to Belcourt YES!, a grassroots, not-for-profit group dedicated to the preservation and successful operation of The Belcourt Theatre in its historical roles as a home for film, theatre and music.
In 2003 the theatre was purchased by Belcourt YES! founding committee member Thomas Wills with the intention of reselling the theater to the organization for the original purchase price. Belcourt YES! purchased the theatre from Mr. Wills in November of 2007, for the exact amount paid for the property in 2003. At about the same time, the Board of Directors changed the organization's name to The Belcourt Theatre, Inc.
The Belcourt is now the last of the neighborhood theatres to remain operational, and is recognized as a unique cultural icon and as Nashville’s choice for the best foreign, independent, and classic film, great musical performances, cutting-edge live theatre, and unique programming for kids and their families.
- Haylee Hall
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