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The Majestic Theater
Quitman, Mississippi
Remembering A Landmark
By: James Kennedy

Majestic Theater Quitman MississippiAccording to Mr. Hal Dabbs Jr.. Mr. Sam McNeill, a local drug store owner, opened Quitman�s first theatre and named it Royal. However, it was not associated with Royal Theatres Inc. of Meridian, Ms. The Royal was opened in the early twenties on the bottom floor of the Masonic Lodge Building which was an old two story wooden frame building located across South Archusa Avenue from where Great Southern National Bank is located today. Evidently business was good and no doubt became even better after the �talkies� came in 1927.

Mr. McNeill decided to build a new theatre. The Majestic, located on the north side, fourth building from the east end of Main Street in Quitman. Most likely construction began in 1929. According to an ad in the Aug. 22, 1930, Clarke County Tribune, the Majestic had its grand opening on Wednesday night, August 27, 1930. I know the building was beautiful in 1930 because it still looked good in later years. The Majestic was built with a medium maroon brick with a few darker brick scattered in at random. The Majestic sign had a green background with white letters and red neon lights over the letters. The main awning had three parallel rows of neon lights across the front. The high level ornate awning structures with green neon lights around the edges and the red tile roofs gave the building a slight Spanish style appearance.

After Mr. McNeill has operated the theatre for about six years, he sold it to a Mr. Buckwalter, who was an engineer for Altec Sound Systems from New Orleans. Mr. Buckwalter also ran the theatre for a number of years. According to Mr. Bob Martin, Mr. Buckwalter died in 1940 or 1941.

Mrs. Buckwalter kept the theatre in operation. At one time she hired The Evans family to run it. for her. All the jobs were held by family members. Billy Ray popped the popcorn and was so small he had to stand on a box in order to dump the popcorn kettle. Most likely Billy Ray also headed up public relations for the theatre.
A film salesman, Mr. Phil Murphy and Mrs. Buckwalter were married around the middle 1940s and they ran the theatre until 1956. The Murphy's sold the Majestic to Mr. A.L. Royal of Meridian.

Royal Theatres Inc. ran the theatre for ten more years. After the theatre closed in 1966, the building was purchased by the Blair Brothers in order to expand Blair�s Department Store. The expansion and remodeling in 1968 gave Blair�s store a new front and left no sign of the old Majestic. The Majestic was a victim of a changing world. Due to fads, trends, interests, technology and a new generation, time didn�t allow things to stay like they once were.

During the 36 years of operation, there were numerous managers, projector operators, concession workers, and others. I won�t try to name all of them, with a few exceptions, Mrs. Lola Kirkland. She worked as a ticket clerk for a long, long, time. She was so familiar with all the kids in town that she knew when it was time for them to start buying an adult ticket.

Mr. Bob Martin started to work as a projector operator at the Majestic in 1938. He worked until 1940 then joined the Army. When he returned from military duty, he worked for another period of time.
I can remember going to my first movie at the Majestic. I must have been five or six years old. I cant recall the name of the movie, but I can remember that the people lived in a house that was only a few feet from a railroad track. Every time a train came by, the house would shake like a grist mill hopper, causing the refrigerator door to come open and some member of the family would have to get up from the table or whatever and close the door.

But the movie wasn�t all that fascinating to me. For the first time I was looking at a talking moving picture. I looked back at the beam of light and asked my mother how does all of this work? Her answer was, �have some more popcorn and be quiet, I am trying to watch the movie.� It so happened that later I would learn how it all worked. I went to work at the Majestic as projectionist in 1959 and worked until 1963. This was the second job that I had ever had, the first one was plowing a mule.

There was a tall muscular gentleman named Dub Ivey who really got involved in the movies. Sometimes during quiet scenes, he would even help with the dialogue. Dub got scolded by management quite often, but it never seemed to do much good. Prior to my working at the Majestic, I was watching an action-packed western one night. There were two men about to draw on each other. The audience was quite and  tense. Dub screamed out, �Hey buddy, you don�t draw against Randolph Scott.� About that time, the gun fire took place. When the smoke had cleared, Dub shouted again, �I tried to tell you, fool.� A friend, Fairly Robinson, shared this one with me. Fairly was watching a western one night and Dub shouted, �He�s behind that rock, watch out! He�s behind that rock.�

I remember a lot of school children came on Friday nights - no homework was due the next day. The lobby and concession area would be filled with people trying to get their popcorn and drinks before the cartoon hit the screen at 7 p.m. When the lights were turned off and the cartoon hit the screen, all the kids would cheer and clap.

The theatre had a big lighted Walter�s Funeral Home clock that was mounted on the right hand wall near the stage to keep everyone posted on the time.

The show order was typically an eight minute cartoon, fifteen minutes of previews and some times a short, such as The Three Stooges, followed by the feature.

On Saturdays the Majestic had double features and occasionally a serial. Saturday�s show time was 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Back in those days, the old Majestic was the center of interest and entertainment in the town of Quitman. Always remember, �You don�t draw against Randolph Scott.�

Thanks to all who helped me with the information. Without the excellent memory of Fay Swilley and Charles Robinson, the drawing would not have been possible.


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