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Apollo Theatre

323-29 De Baliviere Ave
Saint Louis MO 63112

Demolished Adult Theatre
Record #18898  
 Opened: 1936
 Closed: Yes (date unknown)
 Demolished: Yes (date unknown)
Capacity: 700 seats
Architect(s): Bruce E Barnes
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Apollo Art
 Previously operated by: Wehrenberg Theatres

Information for this tour was contributed by Darren Snow.

Joe Litvag, a veteran of the Roxy and White Way theaters here, announced in November 1935 that his new concern, the Apollo Theater Company, would be building a 700-seat, $50,000 movie house and four attached shops on a West End plot then occupied by a five-story building. Architect Bruce E. Barnes had drawn up the plans, and work would commence within ten days. A February opening was projected.

By 1960, Grace E. Peccione was listed as the owner, and the theater was known as the Apollo Art. At first, foreign and independent films were offered, but -- as is so often the case -- the "art" designation became an excuse to program fare that appealed to the more prurient interests of the locals. This booking policy culminated in a police raid on August 31, 1970; the manager and projectionist were arrested and a print of "Man and Wife," the current attraction, was confiscated. Management insisted that the film constituted "clinical sex education" and was not lewd in nature. When the Apollo reopened in December, its newspaper ads contained no film titles; merely the following statement: "2 Hr. Show in Color! Only private theatre movie club in St. Louis ... Student Discounts ... [rated] X." Within a month, City License Collector Benjamin Goins was all over the Apollo like white on rice, shutting 'em down mid-flick and demanding a surety bond and proof that the owners were incorporated in Missouri. Within ten days' time, the spunky theater was shut down twice, the employees were arrested again, and local residents began circulating petitions protesting the Apollo's skanky fare. On one occasion, the marquee read "Free admission to members only due to police harassment;" the following day the message was changed to "Closed."

By February, the local officials had learned that the Apollo was being run by the J&P Corporation of Texas. Soon the management was suing to get a city license, complaining that other theaters didn't need permission from the neighbors. Goins held firm, declaring that applicants for such a license needed to prove that their business was "fit and proper;" the Apollo management had flatly refused to even name the source of its films.

The Apollo made no headlines for several months, but in August it was disclosed that the H.T. Theatre Corporation -- proprietor of several X-rated theaters in its hometown of Des Moines -- was seeking a license to show nudie flicks at the Apollo. Things were relatively quiet for a while, but the hammer came down again in January 1973, when a raid led to the arrest of the manager and projectionist. An assistant prosecuting attorney called the seized films "the worst pornography I've ever seen." (If you're anxious to compare notes, the movies in question were "Sex and the Single Man" and "Hard at It.") The manager insisted that he'd personally edited the movies, and the projectionist merely groused that he goes wherever the union sends him. The warrant was withdrawn later in the month and the films were declared "not obscene." The Apollo limped along (perhaps that's not the proper terminology, all things considered) through the mid-'70s, drifting in and out of the city directories and the daily newspaper listings.

In June 1981, Pantheon Corp. -- the benefactors of the gloriously restored Fox Theater -- proposed a project that would convert the Apollo and three other buildings into an arcade featuring offices, shops, a "real" cinema, restaurants, and a roof terrace. Project head Leon Strauss stated in September 1983 that the "facelift" would begin in the spring.

The Apollo was never rehabilitated, however. A common "strip"-type shopping center now occupies the land.



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Last featured 2002-12-27. Last edited 12/17/2009.

 
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