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Lost St. Augustine: Matanzas Theatre

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Distant Drums premier – photo courtesy State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Many of us remember the Matanzas Theater next to the Exchange Bank building. How many Saturday afternoons were spent enjoying the air-conditioning while watching movies, cartoons and western serials. There were summer-long contests for bicycles and enticements to get you back. For our parents, it was a couple hours of peace and quiet.

This photo was taken in 1951 during the premier of the Gary Cooper movie, Distant Drums, a Seminole War story which was partially filmed here in St. Augustine. Notice the original Chimes Restaurant to the right of the theater.

The theater was torn down sometime in the early 1960s leaving St. Augustine with only a drive-in theater for movie entertainment. It would be a decade or more before St. Augustine had a walk-in theater again when the “mini-theaters” opened at the new mall.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection.