The Princess Theatre, is currently located on the corner of South Main Street and Natchez Trace Drive in Lexington and has been at this location since December of 1935. Prior to this it was located on East Church Street and operated 1922-1935. The building that housed the original Princess Theatre, was demolished in the summer of 2016.
Currently, the Princess is owned by David and Lisa Watts (Lisa Campbell). In March of 2015, they purchased the Princess after it had closed in January of 2014, from Bobby and Marget Day. David & Lisa, along with their children: Weston, Stanton, Evan and Meredith, renovated the Princess over a period of six months and opened August 14, 2015, with the first feature being Fantastic Four.
Renovations included updating from 35mm projection to digital high-definition projection with surround sound. Also, with preservation of history in-mind, when you walk into the lobby it is not changed from its layout from the extensive renovation of 1968. You'll notice a Coca-Cola clock that has been verified to be dated to 1965 that was restored and is now on display above the water fountain. The popcorn machine is a 1967 STAR Manufacturing model, previously placed here during the 1968 renovation. In addition to all this, the ticket box is same one Mr. Bill Welch, stood at to take tickets during the 1970s.
Mar. 2, 2019: Lexington Native Buddy Cannon, was honored with the receiving the very first "Tennessee Music Pathways Post & Panel" Marker. It is located right in-front of the Princess on the corner of Natchez Trace Drive and South Main Street. Mark Ezell, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourism was on location to dedicate the marker. Also, Buddy hosted renowned Country Music Songwriters: Grand Ole Opry Legend
"Whisperin" Bill Anderson, Chris Wallin, and Wynn Varble.
Complete video of the event can be watched here:
Buddy Cannon has and continues to Record Produce and author songs for Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, George Strait and many more.
You can learn more about Buddy at his website: https://www.buddycannon.com/
Grand Ole Opry Legend "Whisperin" Bill Anderson:
Dec. 20, 2018: Middle Tennessee Vocalist Tom Blizzard along with the Pococurrante Big Band Performed in-front of a sellout crowd for "A Big Band Christmas at the Princess." WBBJ-TV covered this event. Long-time WBBJ Anchor and Tennessee Broadcast Journalist Hall of Fame Member Tom Britt also attended this event.
Oct. 27th, 2017: Taken from Weston Watts' Facebook Post:
"What a star-studded night in-front of a SELLOUT crowd at the Princess Theatre of Lexington, TN for the "Sounds of Music: Songwriter Series"! Featuring #Nashville and #Country #Music's BEST songwriters and they all have roots in Henderson County! (Who knew so much talent came from here?!) - Prior to performing last night, all of the songwriters had at least one memory (if not more) of coming to see movies at the Princess! Buddy has the best one, as the last time he was here he was thrown-out during Walt Disney's "Old Yeller" in 1957! - #CMA #Tennessee
Thank you to Lexington City Mayor Jeff-Paige Griggs and Kimberly Whitaker Douglass of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce for putting this event together! - Just so everyone knows, more events like this are soon to come! - This was the first time I've ever seen the crowd lined-up to Lexington Electric waiting to get in!
Take some time to enjoy my Instagram stories from last night and here's some short biographies of each songwriter...One awesome picture which was taken by Mrs. Billie Cannon was of 92 year old "Mama Lin" Cannon (Buddy's Mom and her first time ever coming to the Princess) and 94 year old "Mama Kat" Katherine Roberts! - Two very special people that loved by many in our community!
Buddy Cannon: Grammy Award-Winning Producer/Songwriter
from Henderson County has produced
and written some chart topping
* Alison Krauss
* Jamey Johnson
* George Strait
Established Songwriter grew up in Kingston, TN. She made Henderson County home for a short time. Marla is the daughter of Buddy Cannon and she has written hit songs such as.
* The Fool – Lee Ann Womack
* Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo – Tracy Byrd
* Cleaning This Gun – Rodney Atkins
* Rock on – Tucker Beathard
from Henderson County. As a songwriter,
Jonathan has written hits such as:
*Watching Airplanes – Gary Allen - This song was written while Jonathon was watching airplanes takeoff from the old Lexington airport.
* Red Light & Let it Rain – David Nail
* Why Don’t We Just Dance – Josh Turner
* A Guy Walks Into a Bar – Tyler Farr
* Yours If You Want It – Rascal Flatts
* Diamond Rings and Old Barstools – Tim McGraw
*Let it Rain - David Nail
Grammy Award-Winning Singer/Songwriter from Decatur County has written some chart topping hits on country radio.
* Mine Would Be You – Blake Shelton
*I Drive Your Truck – Lee Brice
* The Climb – Miley Cyrus
*Drink on It - Blake Shelton
*Any information that is incorrect above please pardon as I was taking notes during the show last night and quite possibly could have mistaken something. Please correct in the comments below. - Weston"
Oct. 22nd, 2018: The Watts Family hosted Then-Republican Nominee for Tennessee's 7th Congressional District Dr. Mark Green, for a meet and greet. He was inaugurated to Congress Jan. 3, 2019.
Oct. 2nd, 2018: The Jeremy and Paige Lansing Family of Lexington, invited the Watts Family to attend the Red Carpet Premier Screening of "Indivisible" by Calvary Church of Cordova, TN, at the Orephum Theatre at 203 S. Main Street in Memphis. You will see pictures with Calvary Church Members the Lansing Family and WMC-TV Meteorologist Spencer Denton and wife Meredith. Also, Retired WMC-TV Meteorologist Dave Brown, Spencer Denton and Weston Watts. The Turner Family (The Family Indivislbe is based off of.) & The Watts Family. Cast Member Smarlie with Weston Watts and Meredith Watts. Indivisible played at the Princess from Oct. 26th-Nov. 8th, 2018.
Sept. 4, 2018: The Watts Family hosted then-Republican Nominee for Governor Bill Lee's 2nd Stop on his "Believe in Tennessee Tour." Then-Congresswoman and Republican Nominee for Senator Bob Corker's Seat, Marsha Blackburn attended this event. Once elected on Nov. 6th, 2018, Weston Watts was interviewed by WREG-TV in Memphis as to why the family supported Lee. https://wreg.com/2018/11/06/ap-lee-wins-tennessee-governor/
June 14, 2018: The Watts Family hosted then-Businessman and Republican Candidate for Governor Bill Lee for a town hall/meet and greet.
Dec. 25, 2017: Megan Harris, of National Public Radio in Pittsburgh, PA, a native of Lexington, came and interviewed the Watts Family and several other local residents on the history and the impact the Princess has had on the community. The notable subject being the STAR Model 99 Popcorn Machine that is still in use from the 1967-68 renovation. It has popped-popcorn for all 8 Star Wars Movies!
Sept. 17th, 2017: Miss Tennessee 2017 Caty Davis, is awarded the Key to the City of Lexington by Mayor David Jowers.
July 3rd, 2017: Miss Tennessee 2017 Caty Davis, hosted a fundraiser for her platform Aspell Recovery Center at the Princess during both shows of Despicable Me 3 that day. The Minions were also present to take pictures with Miss Tennessee.
June 30, 2017: The "Minions" were present to take pictures with patrons after the opening show of Despicable Me 3.
June 29, 2017: On the final day for showing Cars 3, Lightning McQueen & Tow Mater are parked outside the Princess to greet patrons. Special thanks to Bryan's Collision Center in Parsons.
December 15, 2016: Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers are seen buying tickets and greeting patrons prior to the opening of STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE.
December 18, 2015: Storm Troopers are seen buying tickets for the opening of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Extra Notes of History:
It has also been verified by a former projectionist that former McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser and star character of "Walking Tall" (1973) and the sequels #2 and #3, shook hands and did a meet and greet in the lobby at the Princess in 1973 when "Walking Tall" premiered.
Verified by two individuals: Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played atop the LACO Drive-in in approx. 1955.
Congressman Dr. Mark Green, invited David Watts and Weston Watts, tour the U.S. Capitol Rotunda after his inauguration (Jan. 3, 2019). The 2nd picture is at a reception at Carmine's with Congressman Dr. Green and
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn.
Gov. Bill Lee's Victory Party
The Watts Family with Dr. Mark Green
Dr. Green being shown the 1967 STAR Popcorn Machine
Dr. Green being interviewed by WBBJ-TV
The Watts Family with Dr. Mark Green
The Princess Theater has been on the minds and in the cenversations of scores of Henderson Countians since the recent announcement that the Lexington landmar would be sold at auction.
Local business Bobby Day purchased The Princess at the Tuesday morning auction. Cark Shivley of Savannah, the previous owner, sold the theater due to ill health. The Princess holds volumes ofmemories for those who grew up in Henderson County.
Paul Williams remembers the late 1930's when the Civilian Conservation Corps was here. "Nickel night" was held every Tuesday night offered admission for five cents. He said that was when all the neighborhoodkids and the CCC bobys would go to movies. Williams also served as a projectionist at The Princess in the 1950s.
Also, well-known local musician Lorraine Hinson used to play the piano before the movies began.
In response to questions about the background of the historic theater, The Progress contacted local historian Brenda Kirk Fiddler, She compiled the following historical reports of theaters in Lexington from past issues of The Progress.
May 29, 1914 Progress - There will be at the Ruby Theatre night one of the most thrilling 3-reel features ever put in motion pictures, "The Dalton Gang," one of the most noted bank robberies in the world. A lecture will be given explaining all features.
April 16, 1920 Progress - C.C. Sweatt Transfers Moving Picture Show
Cooper C. Sweatt, who was pushing the erection of an up-to-date moving picture house, has transferred his interests in the same to Mr. E.L. Drake, late of Aberdeen, Miss., (son-in-law of Judge W.H. Lancaster) who has been running a movie house at Martin. Mr. Drake will carry out the intention of Mr. Sweatt to install a moving picture business here that will present the best attractions of the day-and perhaps even improve on what Mr Sweatt would have done. The house building will be rushed and the shows put on as soon as possible.
June 2, 1922 Progress - Morning Blaze Destroys Picture Show
Last Sunday morning about 1:30 o'clock, a well-advanced fire was discovered in the Princess Theatre, a moving picture show, and the progress of the flames was not stayed until the entire group of buildings on the corner of the home lot of Miss Nannie McHaney, fronting on Monroe Street, were consumed—the moving picture show on the corner and the former baking room and the J.E. Finley restaurant, between the corner and the old McHaney home.
The fire laddies responded promptly after the alarm was given, but the fire was too far advanced to save the buildings. The room vacated by the bakery was empty and the cafe had but recently been taken over by Mr. and Mrs. Finley, who had $500 insurance, which may cover their loss.
The losses consisted of the Moving Picture building which belonged to W. H. Lancaster and E. L. Drake, the Moving Picture machine, films on hand and the piano, the property of Mr. E.L. Drake. The Lancaster & Drake loss is estimated at over $7,000.00 and we understand that they carried $5,000.00 insurance. On whom the loss of the films will fall is not yet known.
Mr. C. C. Sweatt owned the restaurant building and Miss Nannie McHaney owned the bakery and entire lot. Mr. T. W. Stegall suffered the loss of his garage that was situated just back of the picture show building, and if he had been just a few minutes later, he would have lost his car. The home of Mrs. S. J. Eller across the street, narrowly escaped.
September 1, 1922 Progress - New Princess Theatre to Open Monday
The new and handsomely appointed Princess moving picture theatre will open its doors to the public next Monday night, September 4th, with Mabel Norman in her new picture story, "Molly-O", one of the real million dollar productions. The admission will be put at 15 and 30c and while the house is commodious it ought to be taxed to its fullest capacity.
At that time Mr. Drake, the proprietor, hopes to have in operation his wireless radio equipment and without additional charge will give a high class musical program from Louisville, one of the biggest radio broadcasting stations in the world. Programs from other cities will be given at different times. The regular admission will be at 10 and 22 cents, only on special features when it is felt by the management that they cannot afford to present them at that price. Mr. Drake is presenting no pictures that have not been closely censored, that are morally clean and feels that all can afford to visit the Princess with pleasure and profit.
July 19,1935 Progress - New Theatre for Lexington
Lexington is to have another theatre. The corner lot on the southeast corner of the square has been purchased from Miss Nelle Boswell, and the erection of the building will begin soon. The house will be 42 by 100 feet seating 625 people with a balcony ample for the colored folks, and will have a modern heating and cooling system.
September 6, 1935 Progress -
The force of the contractor Hershey Davis has made a big showing an excavating for the foundation of the handsome picture show building to be erected on the Miss Hellen Boswell lot at the Southern corner of the Public Square.
December 20, 1935 Progress - The New Princess Nearly Complete
Seats were received this week for the new home of the Princess Theatre, which is rapidly nearing completion and will be opened in the early part of December. Neither time nor money has been spared in the effort to give Lexington a theatre which, in comfort, beauty and efficiency, ranks with any house of its size in the land. Manager Guy B. Amis is determined that everything be completed when the doors are opened to the public. He will probably be ready to announce the opening date and the opening attraction by next week. The new Princess is owned and operated by the Lexington Amusement Company, a group composed of nineteen leading business and professional men, who sponsored the enterprise, not only as a money-making investment, but as a matter of civic pride. As Mr. Amis observes, the old equipment has not been adequate for modern pictures. It has been impossible for a long time to give a show satisfactory to a discriminating audience. But with the completion of the new Princess, sound pictures here will reproduce every shade of the voice with the perfection found in the best theatres. And there will be no advance in price. All these changes are being made solely with a view to increasing the efficiency of the plant.
The interior walls are finished in acoustical celotex, a material used exclusively for buildings where clearness of sound is a necessity. It prevents echoes-and is attractive in appearance, besides being arranged in a two-tone tile design, with a wainscoting of the brown and tan, striped with red. The proscenium arch is gilt, and the stage hangings will be blue. The seats are upholstered in Spanish leather, with pneumatic cushions. The aisle and foyer will be carpeted, still further to do away with unwanted noise. There are two rest rooms, a balcony containing seats for Negroes and an office for the manager connected with the ticket booth.
The projection room is equipped with the latest and most scientific safeguards against danger. It is of fireproof construction, with the doors covered in sheet metal and fire safety plates set into the wall. These are equipped with fuses which blow if the room ever reaches a dangerous temperature, and teh plates are released to drop over all openings into the auditorium. Protection equipment is also being imoproved. The screen is enlarged and covered in silver, so that the visual effect will be as greatly improvement as the sound. The front basement contains at present a single large room, which is to be finished and rented for commercial purposes. The marque will have a neon sign,extending the entire width of the building. This is being installed by the White Sign Company of Blytheville, Arkansas. The sound and ventilating equipment comes from the National Theatre Supply Company of Memphis; and the heating system was purchased from the Enterprise Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of Phillips & Buttorf Mfg. Co., of Nashville.
The stage is large enough to permit small vaudeville acts, and is equipped with footlights and other accessories of what we used to call the legitimate theatre. Seating capacity is 635, which is about the same as the City School auditorium, although, being so much more compact, it looks smaller. The building is of buff-faced bnck with concrete foundation, scored to simulate stone. It represents an investment of $23,000, all local capital. Miller & Davis, local contractors are the builders. Plans were approved by a committee consisting of A.S. Montgomery, M.H. Britt, I.M. Dennison, John H. Wadley and Guy B. Amis. The officers of the Lexington Amusement Company are: J. O. Brown, president; J. C. Thomas, vice-president; Guy B. Amis, secretary and treasurer. This is an outstanding achievement. It is one which will bring them profit in money, we have no doubt, and also a feeling of satisfaction that they have been able to enlarge so extensively the facilities for enjoyment in a town that is growing up very fast.
Dec. 31, 1937 Progress Property Changes Hands
The old picture show building on the Northeast side of the public square, has been sold to Fred Odle, and is now being reconditioned for occupancy by a general mercantile business. The front will be made up-to-date and shelving and counters placed on the inside to suit the firm that leases the building. The Masonic Lodge will continue to occupy the upper floor
February 2, 1940 Progress E. L. Drake Dies in Jackson - E. L. Drake, fifty years of age, died in home in Jackson, Friday morning, Jan. 8th, and his remains were laid to rest in the Hollywood cemetery, that city, Saturday. Mr. Drake came to Lexington with the old Cumberland Telephone Company, many years ago, and was married to Miss Willie, daughter of Judge and Mrs. W.
H. Lancaster, and to them one child, Mrs. Willie Mae Hannibeth, was born, and she with her mother, survive. The Drakes lived in Lexington until 1924, and while here he established the Princess Theatre, disposing of his interest therein when he moved to Jackson, where he soon established similar business, operating the Paramount and State Theatres. He sold his interest to the Malco organization and was retained as manager which position he has held for several years. Mr. Drake was reared hi Mississippi, and when living in Lexington, had many friends who deeply sympathized with the family in their loss.
January 9, 1942 Progress Roy Acuff At The Princess Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys, another unit of the Grand Ole Opry, has been booked for the Princess Theatre next Monday. There will be no advance in price.
February 6, 1942 Progress Lexington on News Reel Eldon Shaw, a newsreel cameraman, has been making a newsreel to be shown at The Princess Theatre Monday and Tuesday of next week. Hundreds of people of Lexington and Henderson County will have the thrilling experience of seeing themselves in the movies.
The local schools, churches and civic clubs, as well as other schools in the county will share in this publicity. Many of the scenes will be in natural color. The management of the local theatre is to be congratulated for bringing a newsreel cameraman to film the highlights of our town and county.
March 6, 1942 Progress Roy Acuff At Princess Monday
Due to the insistent demands of the hundreds who failed to see Roy Acuff when he appeared at the Princess a short time ago, the local management has arranged another date next Monday when this popular star will appear with his Smoky Mountain Boys in five shows, beginning Monday afternoon at 1:30. [Lorene Hatley of Lexington was working at the Princess during this appearance.)
November 16, 1945 Progress Lexington Amusement Company Plans Log Bought
Henderson County movie fans will soon have another modern showhouse, according to an announcement of Mr. Guy AMis, manager of the Princess Theatre. The Lexington Amusement Co, which owns and operates the Princess Theatre, recently purchased the lot South of the present theatre from Mr. J.C. Thomas, and will build as soon as possible.
As soon as the new theatre is completed, the Princess will get a "new permanent" with the interior being redecorated and improvement added. This step was taken to accommodiate the buglic. Those who are in the habit of attending the Princess have often remarked that more room was needed. It was decided to build another theatre, which will present an entirely different program from the one beingshown at the Princess. This was known as the Strand Theatre, and operated approximately 8 years. It currently owned by Mr. Pope Thomas, son of J.C. Thomas, and houses the Lexington Pawn Shop.
November 28, 1968 Progress - New Princess Greets Patrons
A completely remodeled building will greet patrons of the Princess Theatre and the first offering under new ownership is now playing. The feature is "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," starring Clint Eastwood. An open type ticket booth leads to a lobby-concession area that has been newly carpeted and paneled. The auditorium has been finished in pastel colors and has hanging type light fixtured with a complete dimming system. Two restrooms are in the main lobby as well as two in the balcony. The theatre office is located in the basement. Bill Welch is manager of the Theatre since its purchase by Jaxon Drive-In Theatre, Inc. The Laco Drive-In is also owned by the firm. Sunday night was the last show for the season at the Laco. Mr. Welch said, "There are also plans to rework th Laco with a new and more efficient speaker system.