Historic REX Theatre Enjoys Its Next Curtain Call
In 2014 crews began a $2 million renovation of the historic REX Theatre at 18 N. Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. Said to be Florida's earliest Art Deco-style theatre, the building had lain gutted and vacant for nearly 30 years. Today it's a vibrant 400-seat theatre that serves as a home to Generation Church and a venue for community theatre, seminars and other events.
"The REX," just a few doors north of Garden Street, got its start in 1910 as Rhodes Futch Collins Furniture Store, offering the largest showroom in the Pensacola area. When the furniture store moved to a new location in the 1930's the building was converted into a movie theater that operated for several decades and closed in 1977. The REX then stood empty and in disrepair as it went through a succession of owners before Generation acquired it in 2012.
Renovating the historic theatre created jobs for an estimated 175 construction workers, along with fabricators, suppliers and other vendors. But the project meant a lot more than just employment, according Bill Greenhut, president of lead construction company Greenhut Construction. “This is the type of project that you can look at in years to come and feel a sense of pride that you played a part,” said Greenhut in a letter to the architects. “... projects such as this are extremely rewarding because they have a large impact on the quality of life in our community. The users and patrons of the facility have a tangible and emotional interest in its future, and that personal investment makes the successful outcome even more satisfying.”
The REX is particularly known for its Art Deco façade—and for the fond memories it evokes in Pensacola residents and visitors who attended movies there for decades. Now fully renovated, The REX is once again a vibrant and active part of the downtown Pensacola story, a historically-significant building whose owners have brought the interior to modern standards while protecting and restoring the historically-significant architecture of the original theatre.
PHOTO: Rhodes Futch Collins Furniture Store. 192-. [State Archives of Florida]