A friend and I were headed back home on I-20 in south Georgia and we happened across the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem. Oliver Hardy was born in Harlem in 1892 and the town is proud of its native son.
The Museum pays tribute to the comedy duo of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Staffed by volunteers who are fans of the comedy team’s films, the small museum features unique pieces of Hollywood by gone days. Stan and Ollie made only 107 films during their careers, but the fan base is strong. In fact, each October fans descend upon Harlem for a film festival that swell the small town’s population upwards of forty thousand.
On November 1, 2018, the Crescent celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a party for the Crescent supporters with a showing of Bottle Shock. This was the first movie that debuted for the reopening of the theater on October 31, 2008. I recently spoke with Max Morey about the history of the theater and what lies ahead for this popular downtown Mobile movie venue.
Max, who is originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, was working in the casino business in Biloxi when he came to the Mobile for a college basketball game and was immediately drawn to the City . He soon relocated here and began working with business partner, John Switzer, developing residential properties in downtown Mobile. When the City approached them with the idea of reopening a downtown movie theater, they jumped into the project, researching the buildings’ history at the University of South Alabama archives, so they could be true to the Crescent’s past.
The original Crescent Theater opened in 1885 as a vaudeville theater then was updated in 1912 to show silent films. In 1937, the name was changed to the Century Theater which closed in the 1970’s. In 2008, after a renovation, the Crescent Theater reopened its doors to its Mobile patrons.
“We call it an art house,” Max told me as we discussed the films coming soon to the Crescent. “There’s no plan. I try and get what I can.” He selects films he likes and knows the patrons will like them too. “I’m trying to get happy films.” Though at times working with the film studios can prove to be a challenge.
“A single-screen theater is a recipe for disaster.” Max said. “It can’t be a successful business in and of itself, it needs community support and the community has rallied around the Crescent.” Max explained. When the theater faced closure a few years ago, he told the city of the situation. He is very thankful for the individuals that got together and had a fundraiser to keep the theater open. He said he didn’t see that coming. “The Crescent Film Society is very important to the theater and keeping it going.”
Max says there is always dip in ticket sales in both the summer and the fall when the weather is good and everyone wants to be outside. But the Crescent’s ticket sales have shown a gradual increase in these past 10 years. In fact, he has as many new customers as he does regulars.
Community engagement is important to Max and the Crescent. Charles Morgan, of Chuck’s Fish sought out Max to tell him that the Crescent was the reason he was building restaurants in Mobile. “Every progressive city in America has a single screen theater in its heart.” Charles told him.
Max also lavished praise on the Mobile Downtown Alliance, “I’m the President of their fan club. They work quietly behind the scenes for every positive thing we have. Without them, we’d be back in the 1970’s. Nobody has given them an award, the city ought to.”
You can find Max at the Crescent daily, interacting with local business people that stop by to check on his stock of beer and wine for his customers or local patrons in search of a good afternoon movie and a brief chat. Max is enjoying life. “I’d rather have people’s friendship than money in my pocket.” He told me.
Come downtown to the Crescent and see a movie in this unique part of Mobile’s movie past and future. You are sure to enjoy a fine film and good conversation.
The upcoming films for the Crescent are: Green Book, The Return of Mary Poppins and Mary, Queen of Scots. Get those tickets now!