When the Maxie Theatre opened in August 1947 in Trumann (Poinsett County), it was considered to be one of the most modern theaters in the area. The Maxie represented a prime example of Art Deco–style architecture in the Trumann area. For many years, the theater was one of the few single-screen movie theaters in the northeastern Arkansas area in operation. The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 7, 2011. It closed its doors in 2012.
Local entrepreneur Zell Jaynes served three and a half years in the U.S. Army during World War II. Zell and his brother Lonnie ran and operated several businesses in the Trumann area, including the Allis-Chalmers tractor dealership, a taxi service, and a liquor store. After his return home, he teamed up with his brother and John Hurd to build a “better theater” for local residents. In July 1946, construction of the Maxie Theatre began. The theater was built and furnished with the most state-of-the-art equipment available. Roughly $90,000 was spent to construct the Art Deco–style building.
The Maxie boasted upholstered seats, carpeted aisles, an “air-washer” air conditioning system, a Super Simplex projector, a four-star sound system, indoor restrooms, and water fountains; it even had germicidal lights to prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. An elaborate curtain hung in front of the screen. Since the Maxie competed with other movie houses in the area, everything had to be top of the line to attract patrons.
In 1956, Jack and Pauline Noel moved to Trumann. Jack Noel grew up in Texas, where he had worked in movie theaters since he was a young boy. Upon arriving to Trumann, the Noels leased the Old Grand Theatre, another theater in town, from Jap Singleton. During that time, the Maxie was leased to Lloyd Hutchins. Hutchins decided to return to Oklahoma to work, while Jack Noel managed the theater in his absence. After the death of Hutchins in a car accident, Noel finished out the terms of Hutchins’s lease. In 1958, he bought the Maxie and has operated it until 2012.
The theater is a rectangular one-story building with a flat, built-up tar roof with a modest tile-capped parapet. It was originally covered with smooth stucco, but the Noels decided to cover the lower portion with fieldstone because they could not replace a broken piece around the poster display cases. The front still has its original marquee, with the name “Maxie” in large neon letters above each side. Though the lower half of the front was refinished with fieldstone veneer, it still has the original double doors, ticket window, and two of the four original poster display cases. The lobby consists of a snack bar in the northwestern corner, along with the original candy counter and casement window toward the back of the bar.
Before the theater was integrated in the mid-twentieth century, African-American patrons ordered their snacks at the back of the snack bar. There was also a separate entrance for black patrons, and the balcony was originally advertised as the “Special Gallery for Colored Persons,” where one section of seats was blocked off with a partition.
The theater could seat 673 people with two-story seating, but the balcony was later closed to the public, leaving the theater with seating for only 360. For many years, the Maxie Theatre was one of the oldest continuously operating businesses in the Trumann area, along with being the only movie theater. It closed in 2012, and plans for its demolition were announced in 2016. It was delisted from the National Register on September 8, 2020.
For additional information:
Estes, Ruth Ann. “Maxie Theatre Celebrates 60th Birthday.” Poinsett County Democrat Tribune, August 22, 2007. Online at http://www.democrattribune.com/story/1384037.html (accessed October 21, 2021).
“Maxie Theatre.” National Register of Historic Places nomination from. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PO0199.nr.pdf (accessed October 21, 2021).
“Maxie Theatre to Open Here Next Wednesday.” Trumann Democrat, August 15, 1947, p.1
Little Rock, Arkansas
The Maxie still had its “colored-only” section in 1974. But white members of the Truman High boys basketball team sat with their black teammates in the colored section and refused to move unless the theater would allow them and their black teammates to sit together anywhere in the theater. Within a month, the Maxie changed its seating policy!
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