The Prytania Theatre is the oldest operating theater in New Orleans, dating back to 1915. It is the only single-screen, suburban theater in the state of Louisiana. It caters to film buffs and families alike with its eclectic selection of film viewings, alternating between modern blockbusters and classic films.

The Prytania Theatre originally opened its doors in 1915, and relocated in 1927 to a neighborhood house costing $100,000 on Prytania Street near Peters Avenue. The new Prytania, operated by the M. H. Jacobs Theatrical Enterprises, was, as Mr. Jacobs put it, a theater that "capitalizes the fact that buildings are living things, possessing individual character and personality." [1] The Prytania Theatre featured the occasional fashion show, such as their 1928 Easter Fashion Show. Tickets cost 30 cents for adults and 15 cents for children, and promised to display "the latest American and Parisian modes." [2] Later, though, they became more standardized in that they showed only films.

According to Rene Brunet, current owner of the Prytania, during World War II "people not only came [to the theater] for entertainment," they came to "find out what was going on in the war because, of course, you didn’t have television then." [3] The Prytania Theater, like many smaller theaters in the city, played a central role in disseminating important information to the public.

With the birth of suburban shopping centers in the 1970s, city theaters took a turn for the worse. These mega suburban cinemas provided large parking lots and enormous theaters in neighborhoods close to people's homes. As a result of the growing suburban competition, many urban theaters closed shop. However, a handful of theaters in the New Orleans area found a different way to combat their rivals and became best known as "alternative" movie houses. The most popular ones included Toulouse Street Theatre, Pitt Theatre, Abalon Theatre, and Prytania Theatre. [4]

When the Prytania Theatre was having financial difficulties they began showing old movies, art films, and popular recent movies. Up until that time, every theater in the area was only showing the films that had just ended in the larger houses, and ticket sales were waning. According to Woody Prejean, the assistant manager at the time, audiences loved the new concept, and Prejean based much of the success on the fact that the Prytania never ran movies for more than three days.[4]

At this time, the Prytania was showing two movies a night, with an admission price of $2.50, and house seating capacity was capped at 340. The theater published a large poster displaying film showings for the subsequent month and offered subscription tickets for 10 films at $17.50. [5]

A night at the movies continued to be the most popular way to spend the evening, though young people were increasing in attendance, while their parents were decreasing. These adolescents and young adults became better known as the "core audience" and were accustomed to attending movies at the suburban shopping centers. Instead of trying to compete with these large cinemas, the Prytania played to a niche market. Like a handful of other repertory cinemas in New Orleans, the Prytania's success was attributed to program flexibility and its willingness to try anything. Although the theater had already been displaying their monthly poster in the theater itself, they dropped their daily newspaper ad and opted to distribute small flyers with the schedule of attractions for the next several months. [6]

This combination of new approaches to airing films proved to be a hit for the tiny theater servicing the uptown area of New Orleans, and the theater remains today as a thriving venue for film showings. [7]



5339 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA