The Rex Theatre on Palafox
|Location||18 N Palafox Street|
Pensacola, FL 32501
|Current Owner||Harvest Outreach INC|
|Renovations||1937, 1981, 1984, 1997,2014|
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30.413641, -87.215258, Rex Theatre </googlemap>
The Rex Theatre is a historic building at 18 North Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. Known for its distinctive Art Deco façade, it was a second-run movie theater from 1937 to 1977, but has sat largely unused in the subsequent years, despite several attempts at restoration.
The building was constructed in 1922 as the Rhodes Futch Collins Furniture Company. The company later changed its name to Rhodes-Collins, which can still be seen in faded lettering on the side of the building, and again to simply Rhodes Furniture.
When the furniture company moved to a new, larger building nearby (now known as the Rhodes Building), the old building was refurbished by the Saenger Amusement Company to serve as a second-run movie theater, complementing the company's nearby Isis and Saenger Theatres. The estimated cost of the renovation was $30,000, and the Rex Theatre opened on November 1, 1937.
In 1981, attorney Gerald McGill and Frank Antonowich leased the building and restored it, hiring Theophalis May to install tiered flooring and make other improvements. It reopened as the Rex Cinema 'n Drafthouse on July 23, 1982, charging a flat $1 admission for second-run movies and offering a deli-style food menu and a selection of beer and wine. The venture was unsuccessful, but McGill bought the building for $95,000 in 1984 and, with businessman Russ Dixon, continued renovations with plans to diversify revenue by serving lunch on weekdays and offering a video real estate tour service.
Architect J. P. MacNeil bought the theater in 1997 for only $25,000 — just half the appraised land value — due to the amount of interior work needed. He and his brother, contractor Mark MacNeil, put over $200,000 of work into the building, including the creation an 1,800-square-foot, contemporary-styled apartment on the second and third floors above the entrance. It was sold again in 2004 for $425,000 to Tim Hogan who had stated an intention to reopen the Rex as a "high-tech, retro-themed" venue for movies and concerts. Local firm Bounds Architecture Studio began new renovation work, and Rick Outzen reported on his blog rumors that the Rex might reopen as a live music venue by the end of 2007. This plan never came to fruition, however, and in 2012, Tim Hogan sold the Rex to Harvest Outreach, Inc for $425,000.
Harvest Church acquired the Rex in August 2012 and has made plans to restore it to a theater once again. Their website <http://www.rexpensacola.com/rex-story> states that they are going to restore the façade to its 1930’s art-deco design and renovate the interior to include a large main theater, a 2nd floor café, and a rooftop patio-style space for special events. The website says the Rex will be a venue for Harvest Church, for small-scale live theater, and for movies, concerts, and other special events.
- "Renovated Rex keeps historic face." Pensacola News Journal, September 10, 1998.
- "Saenger Building Pensacola House." Boxoffice, September 18, 1937.
- "Concerning Florida." Boxoffice, March 8, 1941.
- "Second-run theaters offer new concessions." Pensacola News-Journal, July 11, 1982.
- "Pair plans headlines for cinema marquee." Pensacola News Journal, August 11, 1985.
- "Makeover planned for Rex." Pensacola News Journal, October 10, 1995.
- Loaded Gun, July 5, 2006
- PDF at City of Pensacola website