Built in 1928, Richmond’s Byrd Theatre is a State and National Historic Landmark, one of the nation’s original grand movie palaces. It was named after William Byrd II (1674 – 1744), one of the city’s original founders, and gone more than eight decades with very little change to its basic appearance, a rarity among movie palaces of the era. Also unlike many similar venues, the Byrd Theatre has served its original role as a movie theater almost continuously since 1928.
The building is an architectural treasure, designed in the French Empire style by Richmond architect Fred Bishop, with décor by the Brunet Studios of New York. It was originally outfitted with two sound systems; the Vitaphone was the original system developed for the first “talkies”, but because the theater’s owners were unsure of the lasting popularity of movies with sound, a Wurlitzer Theatre organ was included in the building’s design. The organ is still performed by a house organist every Saturday, before the two evening shows.
The 1300-seat theater was purchased in 2007 by the non-profit Byrd Theatre Foundation, for the purpose of restoring the historic venue and preserving its important role as a local cultural resource. The Byrd specializes in second-run movies (individual tickets are $1.99), but also presents special screenings of rare and independent films (ticket prices are generally higher for these), as well as a number of film festivals. Notable events include the Virginia Indie Film Festival, VCU French Film Festival, festivals focusing on Chinese and Indian film, and a series of FilmRoasts, which use B-movies of a bygone era as the subject of improv comedy performances.
Byrd Theatre Information
- Public Transportation: Good (steps from GRTC buses 3 and 4 at Cary Street/Sheppard Street; and a 6-minute walk from bus 16 at Grove Avenue/Sheppard Street)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: In addition to regular daily features of current movies, the Byrd programs approximately 80 special features annually
- Ticket Prices: Regular features are $1.99, special features around $10.