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    Photos by Mickie Winters

    Maybe the bird flew in last winter. It must have been here at least that long, up in the old balcony, stage left. All of it gone now but the delicate architecture of its bones, the performance of its dying played out solo here in this theater of decay. The auditorium floor of the old Broadway Theatre, the space where crowds once watched the miracle of a moving image, hides beneath an office-furniture showroom — the wooden floor built to be removed, if the time ever comes for a resurrection.

    Upstairs, though, the past remains. Plaster crumbling away from brick, still clouds of dust in the air. The pair of old projectors stand in the little room up top, chimneys elbowing up from them, and beside them what looks like an old switchboard for stage lights still marked up in chalk by a hand likely gone from this world. And then there’s the stage, a grand proscenium, filigree above it presided over by a faded gold eagle. There was once a grand organ here, though the Flood of ’37 ruined it. Theater, vaudeville, movies, rock bands playing so long ago a newspaper would still refer to ZZ Top as “a group called ZZ Top.” Black Sabbath played here. Also Christian movies for Sunday school. Also porn.

    The Steuerie family opened the theater in 1915, and for a while, business boomed. By the ’30s, the place was mostly a movie house, remaining popular through the early ’50s. For the next couple decades, the beautiful old building kept changing hands, all takers losing money. By the time Business Office Supply Co. (now Office Resources Inc.) bought it for $40,000 in 1985, it had been vacant for about eight years. Some $100,000 in repairs fixed the building, remade the first floor and froze the upper level in time. Terry Zink, the third generation to have a stake in the building, tells me ORI is exploring civic options for the space — maybe somebody has good use for a theater. For now, it waits for an audience, and for the little skeleton bird to move again.

    This originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Tomb Up Top." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is an award-winning poet and essayist based in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as web editor of Louisville Magazine.

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