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Byrd Theatre

Byrd Theatre

Byrd Theatre
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development


The Byrd Theatre is an outstanding example of the grand movie palaces constructed in Richmond and around the country during the early 20th century.  When it opened on Christmas Eve in 1928, the Byrd Theatre was comparable to the famed Paramount and Roxy theatres in New York City.  The theatre opened with Waterfront and remained a showcase for major studios such as RKO, Universal, Fox, Disney, Paramount, First National, and Warner Brothers.  While the limited backstage area would not support stage productions, major film stars appeared on stage to celebrate the Richmond premiers of their pictures.

Significant not only for its role in the history of the motion picture industry, the theatre is also an architectural gem.  Richmond’s Fred Bishop was the architect and contractor for the million dollar building that follows the Renaissance Revival style.  The Brouet Studios of New York did the decoration and artwork. Highly decorative terra cotta ornamentation dresses up the smooth façade and is evidence of the popular extravagance of the 1920s. The plain but impressive box office is black Italian marble, a material also used in framing the main entrance.  The numerous plate glass doors lining the front of the building have frames of brass.

Byrd Theatre detail

Byrd Theatre detail
City of Richmond Department of Community Development

The interior of the Byrd Theatre is arguably more impressive than its exterior.  The ceiling of the main lobby is 25 feet high, vaulted, and heavy with gold-leaf plaster decoration.  A large crystal chandelier sheds light on the walls that have veined marble covering them half way to the ceiling.  Three hand-painted murals, which the Brounet Studios executed, line one wall, while the other three sides open onto a mezzanine lounge heavily decorated with gold-leaf plaster, crystal chandeliers, wall brackets, and solid bronze handrails.

The auditorium recalls an Italian opera house in the elegant and flamboyant Rococo style, expressed in a superabundance of marble, crystal, gold leaf, crimson velvet, and elaborate plaster decorations.  The 1,396-seat room is spacious, yet retains a feeling of intimacy and elegance.  A two-ton Czechoslovakian chandelier with 4,000 hand-cut crystals hangs from the central dome.  Another eight smaller chandeliers provide light throughout the auditorium.  Six hand-painted murals line the sidewalls and niches, and large murals flank each side of the stage, forming a background to the opera-style boxes that display a grand piano and harp. 

The Byrd Theatre has continuously operated seven days a week, 365 days a year since its grand opening in 1928.  The “Mighty Wurlitzer,” the theatre’s historic organ, is played every Saturday night for the enjoyment of theater patrons.  The theatre has a full schedule of second-run movies and is home to special events such as the Virginia Commonwealth University film festival.   The Byrd Theatre Foundation recently purchased the theatre and is planning to restore the interior and exterior.

Plan your visit

The Byrd Theatre is located at 2908 W. Cary St., right in the heart of Carytown.  Easily accessible from highway 195, the theatre has two film showings every night and runs matinees on the weekend.  Tickets for second-run showings are available for only $1.99.  For additional information, visit the Byrd Theatre website.

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