The Saenger was built in 1924 after the Hauber Theatre, a store-turned-theater burned shortly after it was remodeling in 1922. It was one of over 350 theaters in the Saenger Amusement Co. chain in the southeast United States, and the Renaissance-style picture palace was designed by the chief Saenger architect, Emile Weil. The Pine Bluff theater was considered "first class" and was of the stature usually found in larger cities.
The Saenger was built to last for centuries and was constructed of the finest materials for the then astronomical cost of $350,000. Thick brick walls cover a massive steel girder skeleton. Limestone decorations adorn the facade, and the exterior wood trim is solid cypress. A tile over-hang is on the roof.
Imported from Italy, the lobby's black and white marble floor leads to an ornately decorated auditorium which seated 1500 people. The auditorium's detailed plasterwork is the building's true glory. The plasterwork was cast in steel molds from Italy and can be seen throughout the building. The auditorium faces a Broadway~sized stage and orchestra pit. The stage boasts a seven story fly loft that can store over 90 pieces of scenery flats. The theater's Robert-Morton theatre organ was the largest in the state at the time and was sold in the mid-1960's.
When the Saenger opened its doors, the ceremonies lasted one week and featured a live stage show; four movies, and a minstrel show. Prominent guests and performers at the Saenger include noted film producer D. W. Griffith; silent film actress Norma Talmadge; John Phillip Sousa's Military Band; George White's SCANDALS; Tom Mix and His Wonder Horse, Tony; Will Rogers. Countless amateur stage shows, musical groups, dance recitals, and beauty contests have been held on its stages. Since its re-opening in 1994 Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.; The Zoppe Circus; Geraldine Chaplin; Van Johnson; Fay Wray, Ruth Warrick, Tippi Hedren and Gloria DeHaven have appeared in person on its stage.
The Saenger served the southeast Arkansas region well for nearly 50 years. The Saenger closed its doors in 1975, a victim of a deteriorating downtown base. Currently, the Saenger is part of the Old Town Theatre Centre, which is working to restore the Saenger. In the meantime, the group takes care of the building and works toward its complete restoration.