by Rick Cox
on Friday, January 18th, 2019 at 10:14pm.
Built in 1928, you can find this historical spot in Carytown and still watch a film for only $4.00. When the theatre first opened to the public, you could purchase a ticket for only $0.50! Named after one of the founders of Richmond, William Byrd II, the Byrd Theatre has stood in its same original French Empire design from when it opened. When the theatre was opened it stood as one the Nation's Grand Movie Palaces. In it's lobby you can find hand painted murals stylized to appear as ancient Greek artistry. The large style of the building shows similarities with the beauty of a vast opera house.
The Byrd Theatre also features the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ - the theatre designates this as their "landmark within a landmark". Originally designed to accompany silent films with the orchestral elements, the Wurlitzer Organ is still maintained and operated today! You can catch the organist, Bob Gulledge, perform with accompanying presentations prior to their Saturday night showings. An enticing piece of movie and Richmond history, this is a must-see for all visiting the Byrd on their first trip! You can listen to a recorded preview here to know what to look forward to!
It wasn't until 1978 that the Byrd Theatre was designated as a Virginia Historical Landmark, protecting the site and allowing future generations to appreciate its beauty and value to the history of the community. Regardless of it's designation as a historical landmark, the protections offered to the Byrd Theatre were limited and the risk of its doors being closed for the foreseeable future were very real until recently. In 2007, due to the overwhelming need to repair the roof and central air in the aging building, the Byrd Theatre was thought to be sold back to the city with the possibility that the building be demolished to make room for parking or retail space in Carytown. The theatre was purchased by The Byrd Theatre Foundation, a non-profit organization, that sought to continue the preservation of the site. On their website, you can find more information on events they host and the films they are showing.
The Byrd Theatre is going through the process of revitalization with the help of those who have donated to the Byrd Foundation. If you would like to donate (or "Feed the Byrd"), click here. If you're interested in what the foundation has planned for the theatre, check out their State of the Byrd report!