Shoals Theater

  • <p>The Shoals Theater opened in October, 1948.</p>
  • <p>Sketch of the Shoals Theater from 1948.</p>
  • <p>Opening Day ad for the Shoals Theater, October 21, 1948</p>
  • <p>Inside, the theater had seating for 1,350</p>
  • <p>The concession stand inside the theater</p>
  • <p>Congratulatory ad from the opening of the Shoals Theater</p>
  • <p>Shoals Theater in the early 1950's.</p>
  • <p>1969 ad for the Wild Bunch at Shoals Theater</p>
  • <p>Ad for Crump Camera Shop, which operated at 117 N. Seminary from 1948 until 1983.</p>
  • <p>Ad from Stamps Florist, 1948.</p>
  • <p>A parade passes in front of the Shoals Theater during the 1950s</p>
  • <p>Shoals Theater during the 1990's, before the renovation of the marquee.</p>

Shoals Theater

123 North Seminary Street

Shoals Theater is one of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in downtown Florence. Construction began on this building in 1946, and it opened in October of 1948. It was designed by Marr and Holman architecture firm from Nashville, TN and built from steel and reinforced concrete. The exterior is brick, corrugated aluminum, and green marble. Inside, the theater boasted Ideal Slide-Back chairs, one of four theaters in the entire world to have them at that time. The seat retracted a full six inches, allowing people to pass in front without viewers having to get up from their seats.

The Rosenbaums

The theater business in the Shoals was dominated by Louis Rosenbaum, who came to the area in 1918 during the construction of the nitrate facilities and Wilson Dam. Rosenbaum opened the Princess Theater in 1919 and over the years expanded to nine theaters across the region. Rosenbaum and his son Stanley operated the theaters until the 1950’s when Louis retired and Stanley became an English professor at the University of North Alabama. The Rosenbaum family is also known for their house—the only house in the state of Alabama designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Shoals Theater Opens

The Shoals Theater opened on October 21, 1948. The first film shown, at 1 pm was “That Lady in Ermine” starring Betty Gable and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Several shops operated within the theater along Seminary Street, such as Stamps Florist and Crump Camera. The theater continued to operate in downtown Florence until 1980. The theater operates today as an event space, hosting concerts, plays, and performances throughout the year.

The theater was built during the era of segregated public spaces. The oral history belows addressses this segregation:

  • Listen to the audio


Shoals Theater was built in the Art Moderne style, and features the long horizontal lines, low profile, and curving forms that embodied this type of architecture. The streamlined look represented prosperity and the future in the consumer-centric culture of the 40’s, and 50’s. The streamlined look was applied to everything from household appliances, cars, buses, ships, and buildings.