Hi-Pointe History


Catherine Walsh and Maddy Bale

Built in 1922, the Hi-Pointe Theatre on McCausland Avenue is the oldest continuously- operating, single-screen movie theater in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  

Throughout its many years, the Theatre has fostered dozens of connections to the Clayton community.  When the parents of current owner Diana Grayson purchased the Hi-Pointe in 1977, Diana was a fourteen-year-old student at Clayton.  Now, Diana works closely with the theatre’s booker to communicate with studios and distributors and to acquire the art films shown in the Hi-Pointe Theatre.

As they grew, Diana’s children followed in her footsteps and attended Clayton schools.  The family’s history in the theatre business inspired one of these children, CHS graduate Peter Grayson, to attend film school and to pursue a career in film.  Before Peter moved to Los Angeles for a new job, the Globe sat down with him to learn about the Hi-Pointe’s influence and history.

From a young age, Peter and his brothers were exposed to an impressive amount of film history through their family’s theatre business.  “Movies are all we ever talk about,” Peter said.  “We watched a lot of old movies as kids, movies that most kids our age probably hadn’t heard of.”

Indeed, the Hi-Pointe Theater has been applauded for its old-school atmosphere – an atmosphere which the family strives to maintain.  In August of 2015, the Graysons restored the front of the theatre and returned its appearance back to that of the Theatre in the 1930s.  

Hi-Pointe Theatre in the 1930s

At the same time, however, the theatre also experienced a major change in order to keep up with the modern demands of movie-goers.  After three years of construction, a second theatre called the Hi-Pointe Backlot was opened in May of 2015 behind the original.  Unlike the main theatre’s 400-seat auditorium, the intimate Backlot seats 48 people.  Despite its small size, the Backlot has certainly changed the family business.

“The Backlot is the best thing to ever happen to the Hi-Pointe.  It allows us to play more than one movie at a time,” Peter said.  “All the changes make us feel like the Hi-Pointe is going to last.”

Combined with the Theatre’s timeless ambience, the many changes and updates have worked together to ensure the Hi-Pointe Theatre’s unwavering popularity ever since its 1922 opening.  Its uniqueness and intimacy pulls customers back time and time again.  

“[The Theatre] remains popular for people who enjoy watching movies the way they’re supposed to be seen,” Peter said.  “With only one screen, everyone is there for the same reason.  It’s the most authentic, classic movie-going experience out there.”

In fact, it was those exact experiences that prompted Peter to pursue a career in film.  Just like Diana and her brothers worked behind the concession stand of the Theatre when their parents originally purchased the business, Peter and his siblings also found jobs in the family’s business.  

“We never had to go out and find our first jobs, because the theatre was there for us,” Peter said.  “Working at the family theatre was, and still is, the best job in the world.”

But after graduating from CHS and studying film and television production at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Peter is ready to expand beyond the family business.

“Having the theatre in the family made me develop an undying passion for film.  I want to be a filmmaker,” Peter said.  “Hopefully every job I have will be connected to film in some way.”

As for the future of the theatre, it will never stand still.  Despite the significant changes throughout the last few years, the family will continue its work to preserve and advance the business.  Personally, Peter hopes that the Theatre built without a parking lot will one day have a parking lot of its own.

“The Hi-Pointe is the oldest, most iconic single-screen movie theatre in St. Louis.  The Hi-Pointe also has the single best bag of popcorn you will ever [eat] in your life,” Peter said.  “It’s family owned and operated, and it’s almost 100 years old.  That’s a rare thing.”