The historic Shoals Theatre, nestled in beautiful downtown Florence (located on the corner
of N. Seminary and Mobile Streets) has been purchased by the Shoals Association of Ministers/Musicians (SAMM),
a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. As an interchurch, Christian association, the "ministers/musicians"
of SAMM have teamed together with local businesspersons and civic leaders to help fulfill both community and ministry
needs in the Shoals area.
SAMM purposes to serve the needs of the community by educating, facilitating, and providing opportunities for those
who are involved with the performing arts and ministry. The individuals who make up the group, all have a long
history of serving as community leaders, both in their professions and in their personal donations of time to worthwhile
The Shoals Theatre represents
the end of the golden age of movie theatres of the Art Deco or Moderne style. It was built by Stanley Rosenbaum,
a local champion of modern architecture who is also known for the Frank Lloyd - Wright designed house he build
here in Florence, Alabama. Very few of the Moderne theatres from this period are still in existence - we know
of no other example in Alabama of this quality. Including the equipment, this theatre was an investment of over
$400,000 - a huge sum at that time.
This is the last of the early movie theatres, which remains in the city of Florence. At
the time of its construction, the national theatre trade magazine, The Theatre Catalog 1948-49, called this the
"finest theatre in the Southeast" and praised it for its acoustics - the structure was totally engineered
for state-of-the-art sound by the Marr & Holman firm of Nashville, who were specialists in the field of theatre
It was the first theatre in the northwest Alabama area to have air conditioning and the first in the southeast
to feature the "Ideal Slide-Back Chair" as seating, at the time used by only four other theatres in the
world. The projecting V-shaped marquee featured a steel support-column for the neon "spillway" which
is probably a precursor of the unipole technology.
Generations of residents who have lived in this community before the theatre closed in 1980 have memories of movies
they saw here, and the "spider" design on the ceiling (the focus of the Moderne paint scheme which has
already been meticulously repainted). They have laughed, cried, munched popcorn, and they have memories of dates
and good times with friends spent in this building. Fortunately, the structure has changed little over the years.
The base of operations for SAMM
is located in the historic Shoals Theatre. This building complex includes a 1,000-seating capacity auditorium,
street level store-front space, and second-story offices. A contemporary, Christian radio station (WFIX) that broadcasts all over the Tennessee Valley (Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama)
and a Christian newspaper occupy space in our complex.
The Shoals Theatre, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in October of 1998, now serves the community, the church, and the entire Shoals area as a performing arts,
family entertainment, and Christian education center.