Ah, springtime in Tennessee. In Nashville, the dogwoods are in bloom and the sound of acoustic guitars flutters through every street and valley. In the land of the King, however, it’s time for honeysuckle and the state’s best barbecue.
Much has been written about Elvis Presley’s work. But what about his days off? How would a man with such unique responsibilities unwind during his more leisurely Memphis days? Wonder no further, as his famous Graceland Estate has the very answers Elvis fans seek.
According to those that knew him best, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll could typically be found doing one of three things for his time off. Among his favorite pastimes were playing football in the park with friends, enjoying the Memphis Fairgrounds, or his favorite: visiting local movie theatres for days on end.
If you’re wondering exactly how the Elvis Presley could ever attend a movie without being mobbed, you’re not wrong. “He often had to go late at night or rent a theater or park out at night so he could enjoy his time without being mobbed by thousands of fans,” Graceland says of the icon.
Elvis would often arrive at such screenings around midnight. There he’d stay until the wee hours of the morning… Sometimes 3:30 or 4 a.m… And sometimes until dawn.
Presley also loved renting out bowling alleys and rollerskating rinks in Memphis. His two favorites, the Whitehaven Plaza and Rainbow Rollerdome respectively, were frequent haunts of the King in his younger days. Fascinatingly, Elvis would rent out these establishments – alongside movie theatres and amusement parks – for weeks at a time so he could enjoy them in peace.
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Before his days of renting out spaces for privacy, Elvis would spend as much time as he could playing football with friends around his Memphis home. Graceland famously recounts a December 1956 game, in which Presley played a game of football with friends at Dave Wells Community Center – fresh off making his first feature film. The games would continue all through the day, ending on the Graceland lawn.
No matter what, however, Elvis would always return to the movies. Aside from starring in them himself, his greatest love and leisure was a good film in a theatre.
“The movie theater was Elvis’ home away from home,” his estate cites. For Presley, no genre was off limits, either. For the majority of the 20th century, movie theatres were the only way to enjoy a film. With VHS, DVDs, and BluRays many decades off, Elvis could often be found watching his favorite movies in any available Memphis theatre. His favorite? The Memphian.
According to Graceland, Elvis Presley would “often go to the movies every night for a week or more. In May 1963, he saw “Village of the Damned,” “The List of Adrian Messenger,” “Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy” and “The Nutty Professor” (three times) over the span of about 10 days at the Memphian.”
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One of the King’s favorite films of all time, “Dr. Strangelove,” was even viewed five times in a row in August of 1964. As soon as the film returned to theatres in December of that year, he was right back in his seat at The Memphian. Elvis would also celebrate his 31st birthday at his favorite theatre, where he enjoyed “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
Indeed, no matter how much changed throughout the life of Elvis Presley, one thing remained constant: if there was time for leisure – there was time for a movie. And if he couldn’t make it to a theatre, then he would fire up whatever film he could find on his dozens of television sets within Graceland.
Ah, to be the King.