The beloved Sunrise Theatre turns 100 next year, Aug. 1, 2023. To celebrate we had an essay contest. Readers shared their fondest memories. Entries were judged by Indian River Media Group and Sunrise Theatre staff. These were the winning entries.
Memories from 1967-1972
Let me start by saying, I had a great childhood. I mean who wouldn’t?
I grew up in Fort Pierce, which had, and still has, some of the prettiest beaches in the area. There was year-round sunny weather, a community where everyone grew up knowing each other and where it wasn’t uncommon for you to marry the boy (or girl) next door.
Weekends were often spent with family and friends. Enjoying the sun and beautiful water or pulling up in a boat to spend the day on one of the many small islands not accessible by car, are some of my fondest childhood memories.
But the most special were the times I spent with Mom and Dad. Being an only child, my parents took me pretty much everywhere. I grew up going to see Disney movies with them at the Sunrise Theatre.
I remember holding Dad’s hand as we walked into the theater, taking in all the surroundings. Carpeting met you at the door and carried you up to the concession area. The walls often had posters of coming movies, which were fun to look at and look forward to. Standing in line, holding my parents hands, listening to people talk and laugh are ones that bring tears to my eyes these days.
Both parents have passed on, but the Sunrise Theatre is more than a building that we frequented. It is a place that holds special memories for me. Getting our snacks, finding our perfect seats and watching Disney’s Lady and the Tramp or One Hundred and One Dalmatians or whatever was playing, are ones neither time, age or distance can take away.
Remembering those days and nights spent at the Sunrise Theatre with my special loved ones are memories I will cherish forever. So, thank you Sunrise Theatre and congratulations on turning 100. May you continue creating memories for all who come through the door.
— Lisa Vines, Cedartown, Ga.
Memories from the 1960s
Growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, Fort Pierce’s downtown 2nd Street was the hub.
Most of the cultural and shopping areas were there. We would buy our clothes from Rubin’s and JC Penney and shop at the other local stores in this area.
Sunrise Theatre was the only theater in town and if you wanted to see a movie or show, it was the place to be.
I remember the movie posters for the latest movies would be in front cases and the coming attractions lined the walls as you walked into the theater. The aroma of popcorn and the excitement enticed you as you waited to pay for your ticket. The fact that it had air conditioning added to the allure when the Florida heat and humidity were unbearable. You could get your ice cold soda, popcorn and candy and escape that reality as you enjoyed the previews and then the movie.
I remember riding my bicycle there, parking it and stepping inside to cool off before I rode around the area to see the people shopping and to meet my friends for the latest feature. I saw so many great shows there and have such great memories of them all.
One of the most vivid memories was from the time my grandmother took us to see The Jungle Book. The late ’60s were a wonderful time but there was much turmoil with integration and moving on from the ugly truth that was the past.
Most theaters had a separate entrance, water fountains and seating area for the black community of that era. I remember asking my grandmother why we couldn’t sit in the balcony to watch the feature and she said it was because of this. I asked if we could please sit up there and watch this movie. She said she didn’t see why not and we went up there and watched it. The movie was great and we enjoyed it so much. As a child, I found this a learning experience.
As the city changed and new theaters opened, sadly the Sunrise was no longer the only theater in town. It eventually became obsolete and struggled to compete. Luckily, the downtown area revitalized and some great local organizations like Main Street Fort Pierce and investors realized the potential and revitalized this beautiful historical place, returning it to its former glory.
Since then I, have seen some amazing concerts and shows there and it continues to bring in great events that never disappoint. This small, personal venue continues to fill the seats.
Sunrise Theater will always hold a special place in my heart. I always look forward to browsing its beautiful glossy playbill and planning the shows my wife and I will enjoy for the upcoming season. I hope it will continue to operate and carry on its legacy for many years.
— Jeff Sneed, Fort Pierce
Memory from 2012
Our fondest memory was attending the Tony Bennett concert on Sunday March 18, 2012. After delivering an exceptional concert, Tony came to the front of the stage to address the audience.
“You have such a wonderful facility here,” he to us. “This was the type of venue where I started performing.”
He asked the sound technician to turn off all of the amplification. He then sang a favorite song, but I do not remember the title, without the band or amplification to highlight the acoustical feature of the Sunrise.
A spectacular moment to witness.
— John and Mary Kurtz, Fellsmere
Thank you for sharing your memories and participating in our "I Remember the Sunrise" contest celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce.