Meridian Star

Local News

June 23, 2008

For Sale: Temple Theater

After more than 80 years of ownership of what is now one of Meridian's historic buildings, the Hamasa Shriners have put the Temple Theater up for sale.

The asking price for the theater, which was built by the Shriners in the mid-1920s and has long been a historical and architectural staple in Meridian, has yet to be released. The theater is noted for its Moorish Revival style of architecture and design, popular among Shriners' Temples, and its remarkable "Mighty Morton" pipe organ.

Once the only movie theater in town, the Temple was leased by the Saenger chain of theaters for more than 40 years. In the theater's heyday residents would often line up around the block for the Saturday matinees, and it is now used mostly for stage productions like pageants, recitals, and plays. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The theater was listed for sale with Winstead Realty Friday, said Paul Thompson, a local Shriner who is on the building sale committee. As of now, Thompson said he did not know who the eventual buyer might be.

"Several people expressed interest in it," he said, "but none of them made what we thought was an acceptable offer."

Thompson said that the Shiners "would love for it to be continued to be used as a theater," and "would love for someone from Meridian to buy it," but that the Shriners will sell to whomever presents an offer that is "deemed acceptable."

Jerome Kittrell, the sales agent for the theater, said he has plans to speak to the city and county governments and the East Mississippi Development Corporation as well as some local foundations about possibly purchasing the theater.

The Shriners are selling the theater, Thompson said, because they need a more functional multi-purpose building and because "the Shriners are not really in the business of marketing a theater for entertainment. We're in the business of raising money and helping the children." The Shriners are well known for their Shriner's Hosptials for Children.

Currently, the Temple theater's last show under the Shriners is booked for December, but, Thompson said, the Shriners are currently re-evaluating booking dates. He would not say whether they were considering extending or shortening the period in which shows are booked, but said that, either way, a decision will be reached in the next 30 days.

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