An understated and wonderful St. Louis gem, the Hi-Pointe Theatre was built in 1922 at the incredible intersection of Interstate 64, Clayton Road, Clayton Avenue, McCausland Avenue, Forest Avenue, Oakland Avenue and Skinker Boulevard, today also the home of the world’s largest Amoco sign and just at the southwest corner of Forest Park. Taking its name from the surrounding neighborhood, it is the highest point in the City of St. Louis. Unlike other theaters of its time, the Hi-Pointe was always intended to show movies—not vaudeville or plays—on the big screen in a huge, comfortable auditorium.
During the early days of cinema, the Warner Bros. Circuit of Theatres operated the Hi-Pointe, followed by Fanchon & Marco, St. Louis Amusement and St. Louis’s Arthur Enterprises.
St. Louisans George and Georgia James have owned the theater since the 1970s. Their daughter, Diana, and her husband Bill Grayson have expanded the Hi-Pointe's repertoire by adding a second theater with 'The Hi-Pointe Backlot' and are continuing the family tradition these days.
The theater has benefited from many renovations over its history. The aquamarine seating, long a favorite of St. Louis moviegoers, was added in 1963 and recently refurbished. Today, the theater boasts a huge new screen and explosive Dolby Digital sound while preserving the theater’s historic and neighborhood cachet, including a cozy lobby, turquoise curtains, updated second-floor restrooms and men’s urinals noted by the Riverfront Times as “best in St. Louis.”
As the oldest continuously operating single screen movie theater in the St. Louis metropolitan area, the Hi-Pointe is proud to continue its 95-year tradition today. The theater features convenient parking, student discounts, reasonable ticket prices, and delicious popcorn.
Moviegoers from all over the region love the Hi-Pointe, and it’s frequently voted St. Louis’s favorite theater.
See the newest movies in style at St. Louis’s oldest theater!
Acknowledging the need to compete, owners of the Hi-Pointe Theatre — the region’s second oldest movie house still in business — are adding a second screen.
The new screen will be in a building behind the Hi-Pointe’s longtime home at 1005 McCausland Avenue, at the southwest corner of Forest Park.
To be called Hi-Pointe Backlot, the satellite theater will be on the second floor of a building the Hi-Pointe’s operator bought three years ago. The Backlot will have about 50 seats and will open late this month, said Diana Grayson, whose parents — George and Georgia James — bought the Hi-Pointe in 1977.
The Hi-Pointe, opened in 1922, is the oldest operating theater in the Missouri portion of the St. Louis area and the only single screener. The region’s oldest movie house is the three-screen Lincoln Theater in downtown Belleville, which opened in 1921.
Grayson, who took over the Hi-Pointe’s operation last year, said the Backlot will “work in tandem” with the 450-seat main theater to give the Hi-Pointe much-needed flexibility in competing with the St. Louis area’s multiplexes.
“By having a second screen, you at least have some flexibility to bring in films on a regular basis and not have just one film and it’s do or die,” she said. “Our goal is the continued success of the Hi-Pointe. We’re going to do everything to keep it moving forward.”
As a single-screen theater, the Hi-Pointe is an outlier in the movie business. A decade ago, the Landmark chain of art-house cinemas kept the Hi-Pointe afloat but in 2008 declined to renew its movie distribution arrangement. The Jameses then partnered with a former Hi-Pointe manager, Brian Ross, to run the theater. He remains at the Hi-Pointe, which worked to rebuild business with a blend of Hollywood releases and art-house films. The theater also got a beer-and-wine license.
Available to Backlot customers will be traditional concession-stand items, plus beer, wine and cocktails. Silver Screen Properties, a firm led by Grayson and her husband, Bill Grayson, owns the Backlot building, which was constructed in 1924.
“We basically gutted it out completely, taking it back to brick and concrete,” Diana Grayson said.
Silver Screen is rehabbing the first floor as office space. Upstairs, the Backlot will have a modern, industrial feel, Grayson said. A digital projector will show movies on a 19-by-8-foot screen. She declined to say how much Silver Screen has invested in the building, at 1002 Hi Pointe Place.
“It’s been huge,” she said.