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Brown Theatre - History

Brown Theatre marquee

1925 The Brown Theatre opens on October 5, with Elsie Janis in a revue called Puzzles. The theater is named for J. Graham Brown, Indiana native and longtime Louisville resident. Modeled after New York’s famous Music Box Theatre, the Brown boasts a 40’ x 40’ stage that is the equal to anything in New York except the Hippodrome.

1930s With the Great Depression, road bookings dry up, and the Brown is leased to the Fourth Avenue Amusement Company as a movie theater.

1962 The Brown is renovated to once again stage live performances.

1971 After another renovation, the theater is sold to the Louisville Board of Education and is operated under contract to the Louisville Theatrical Association. The theater is subsequently rechristened The Macauley Theatre, after an earlier Louisville theater located on Walnut Street (now Muhammad Ali Boulevard).

1982 The Broadway-Brown Partnership is formed and purchases the theater and the adjoining hotel in an effort to rejuvenate the southern end of Louisville’s downtown business district.

1995 The dressing rooms are renovated in preparation for the premiere of Stage Door Charlie, a musical starring Tommy Tune. The event is staged as a fundraiser, and the following year a new roof is put on the building.

1997 The Fund for the Arts acquires the building and undertakes to finance the remainder of the $4.2 million restoration. The Kentucky Center is contracted to manage the theater. Generous gifts soon follow from the W. L. Lyons Brown Foundation, the Brown family and Brown-Forman Corporation.

1998 The newly re-rechristened W. L. Lyons Brown Theatre includes new stage equipment and rigging, a modern computerized marquee and a new heating and air conditioning system. A further gift from Owsley Brown Frazier results in the main reception area adjoining Fifth Third Conference Center being named the Frazier Lobby.

2018 The Kentucky Center Foundation purchases the Brown Theatre.

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