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Opening in 1925, Saenger Theatre was the leading cultural center in the growing city of Pensacola, hosting touring shows, Vaudeville acts, films, and Broadway plays during its first decades. Following the trend of downtown theaters and playhouses, the playhouse became a movie theater after World War II. This historic structure and may have been demolished after the movie house closed its doors in 1975. However, the building was donated to the city and became a cultural center. Local activists, university faculty, and historic preservationists raised funds to restore its Spanish Baroque architecture and the theater reopened in 1981 and continues to host cultural events in the heart of downtown Pensacola, such as performances by the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra.


  • The Saenger Theatre opened in 1925 and has been restored thanks to an effort between the University of West Florida and leading residents of Pensacola.
  • Circa 1940s
  • The Saenger as it looks today
Also known as the Grand Dame of Palafox, this was one of three Saenger Theatres, the others being in Mobile, AL and New Orleans, LA. All are known for their Spanish Baroque architecture, constructed by Emile Weil. This one was completed in 1925 and replaced the old Pensacola Opera House that was destroyed in 1917 Pinar del Rio Hurricane. 

This $500,00 theatre opened with Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments as its first feature. During WW2 it stayed open 24/7 to allow residents to watch newsreels whenever they could or desired. As drive-ins became the norm and more desired way to watch movies, The Saenger fell into disuse and closed in 1975. Later donated to the city and with the help of the University of West Florida, the theatre was restored in 1981 and used for jazz performances.

Since then, the theatre was renovated again, costing about $15 million and the first performance was "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 2009. The theatre is still operation providing various entertainment for attendees.  

Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic P Guide to Florida's Historic Architecture, 1989, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, p. 7
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