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This historic Louisville theater might soon have new life

Part of the Epping District, the theater is hidden beneath a modern space.


The historic Broadway Theater once hosted concerts from the likes of Black Sabbath and Santana.

Photo by Zayne Isom

“I have driven past this building my entire life... and I had no idea (it) existed.”

Located at 816 E. Broadway, the old Broadway Theater was once a staple of Louisville culture. The 800-seat space was built in 1915, and over its lifetime it served a number of purposes:

  • It originally was home to vaudeville performances through the 1920s.
  • In the 1930s, it was converted into a movie house — the old school projectors are still there.
  • By the 1970s, the theater was known as Mad Hatter’s nightclub, hosting nationally touring rock acts like Pink Floyd, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, and Santana. (That rock history lives on with the space hosting studios for LRS102, an online rock music radio station.)
  • Since then, the theater was nearly demolished before it was converted into a furniture store + the home of Launch Louisville, a former co-working space.
A black-and-white photo of a theater.

The Broadway Theater, as it appeared when it opened in 1915.

Photo courtesy Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville

That quote at the start of this piece is from Terry Zink, who’s family is hoping to breathe life into the dilapidated space. Last month, Zink hosted an open house that brought ~200 people inside the old theater.

Zink spoke about the plans for the space to local real estate agent + content creator Sam Heine. They include a two-phase redevelopment:

  • Phase one: Clean up the old theater and turn it into an event space for art shows, weddings, galleries, corporate events, and more.
  • Phase two: “Reactivate” the Broadway Theater to “remember what this place was born to do.”

The project is part of the Epping District, a stretch of historic buildings along the 800 block of East Broadway. The group redeveloping the stretch was founded by Anna Sorrell + Rachel Zink.

“I’ve told people... if you want to see the ‘before’ you better hurry up and get down here,” Zink said. “We’re starting to move forward.”