The Buckingham Theatre
A far cry from the multiplex theaters of today, the Buckingham Theatre greeted its customers with a façade that more closely resembled a Colonial-style mansion.
Built by the developers of the Buckingham Community in 1939, The Buckingham, as it was known, was the central part of a small shopping center located at the intersection of Glebe Road and Pershing Drive. The building itself was considered to be quite a creative endeavor due to the classic front design which eschewed the usual marquee, neon lighting, and signs that were common to other theaters of its time.
The Buckingham played a role in the desegregation movement in Arlington when it was the site of demonstrations against Virginia's Massive Resistance policies in July 1962. Those arrested were eventually acquitted of all charges.
After a successful run of 47 years, the theater closed in 1986 and was converted to a post office in 1990, which it remains to this day.
What about you?
Do you have any memories of the Buckingham Theatre? Let us know what you remember!
In 1957, my first job was as an usher at the Buckingham Theatre. I was 16 years old. Most of the movies were in black and white. I was paid less than a dollar an hour (I think it was 65 cents an hour). I would drive there from my house near Westover in an old 1950 Ford that I bought for $95. The only movie that I still remember was a science fiction movie titled- "THE 27th DAY". My friends were very annoyed when I refused to sneak them into the theatre for free. It wasn't hard work, but having to watch the same movie over and over was boring. —
The Buckingham was part of a chain of Neighborhood Theaters. I think tickets were about $0.25 back in 1956. Others were the Wilson [in Roslyn on Wilson Blvd], the Ashton [in Clarendon on Wilson Blvd – middle of the block on top of where the Metro is today], the Arlington on Columbia Pike [now Cinema and Draft House], the State on North Washington Street, Falls Church [now live theater], the Byrd on Washington Blvd down near 395 [formerly Shirley Highway]. There may have been others. Back then you could smoke in the theaters!!! but you had to sit in the balcony – sometimes there was an extra charge for that. Susan Clay [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I have a debate going on with a number of people. Some of us, including myself, remember the Buckingham Theater having a balcony. Did it?
The Librarians says
According to Marie "Ellie" Jones Eshelman who often attended movies at the Buckingham Theatre in the late 1940's and early 1950's there was no balcony.