HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Some of the state’s biggest entertainment stories in 2022 came from right here in the Tennessee Valley.

While the entertainment industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a bright spot over the hill with movie theatres opening and new concert venues popping up across North Alabama.

News 19 reported multiple entertainment stories throughout the year, and compiled a list of the most impactful stories in the Valley.

ALABAMA’s Jeff Cook passes away at 73

(Photo Submitted by Absolute Publicity Inc.)

Jeff Cook, a founding member of the Fort Payne-based group ALABAMA, passed away on Monday, November 7. He was 73.

According to the band’s publicity firm, Cook died at his beach home in Destin, Fla. “with his family and close friends by his side.” Cook was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012.

Cook helped co-found the ALABAMA band alongside Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry more than 50 years ago. While starting from humble beginnings, the band changed the face of country music, selling more than 80 million albums and charting more than 40 No. 1 hits.

Read the full story here.

The Orion Amphitheater opens in Huntsville

An inside look at the Orion Amphitheater | Photo: WHNT

The Orion Amphitheater, an 8,000-seat venue situated in Huntsville’s MidCity district, officially opened its doors in May. The venue’s inaugural concert was Jake Owen, followed by “The First Waltz” — a weekend-long celebration featuring artists like Jason Isbell, Brittany Howard, and the N.E.I.G.H.B.O.R.S.

Upon its opening, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, “We are blown away by The Orion Amphitheater, which will undoubtedly help our music and culture economy grow.”

Since it opened, The Orion has hosted many big names, including Kenny Chesney and a Halloween show from music legend Stevie Nicks.

Read the full story here.

ShoalsFest returns for third year in Florence

After skipping 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ShoalsFest returned for its third year in 2022.

The festival, created and headlined by Lauderdale County native and Grammy winner Jason Isbell, includes music from local artists and internationally-recognized stars.

Read the full story here.

Lucas Cinemas opens in Albertville

(City of Albertville)

After more than a year without a movie theater in Marshall County, Lucas Cinemas opened its doors to moviegoers in December.

The theatre is located on U.S. Highway 431 across from the Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Thrift Store. It is the third Lucas Cinemas location in the nation, following theatres in Maysville, Ky. and Fort Benning, Ga.

The new location is Marshall County’s first indoor movie theater since August 2021 — that’s when Boaz 9 Cinema closed its doors for the final time.

Read the full story here.

Alabama native Octavia Spencer earns a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Octavia Spencer arrives at the Oscars on Feb. 24, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Oscar winner, Auburn University graduate and Alabama native Octavia Spencer earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a ceremony on December 8.

Spencer received the 2,742nd star on the walk of fame.

Spencer started her acting career in television with small roles in “The X-Files” and “Ugly Betty.” Her first film role came in 1996’s “A Time to Kill,” directed by Joel Schumacher.

She received critical acclaim for her work in 2011’s “The Help,” a role that earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She followed up her win with two more Oscar nominations for the films “Hidden Figures” in 2017 and “The Shape of Water” in 2018.

Read the full story here.

Alabama filmmakers earn Golden Globe, Critics Choice nominations

Writers and directors Daniel Scheinert, left, and Dan Kwan arrive for the world premiere of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” at the Paramount Theatre during the South by Southwest Film Festival, Friday, March 11, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)

Alabama native Daniel Scheinert, and his professional partner Daniel Kwan, could be headed for Oscar gold.

The directing duo earned nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the upcoming 80th Golden Globe Awards — putting them head-to-head with film legends like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron.

The pair also earned nominations in the same categories, along with 12 other nods, for the film from the Critics Choice Movie Awards.

Read the full story here.

Athens’ Cinemagic Theatre to close after 25 years

(Cinemagic Theatre |

Athens bid farewell to the Cinemagic Theatre in July. The community staple had been showing movies — on both indoor and outdoor screens — for over 20 years.

Ralph Freehauf, the theatre’s owner and operator, said the site started as an overgrown field before developing into a drive-in and later added an indoor theater with five screens.

“When we opened there wasn’t a movie theater in Athens, and I’m afraid we’re leaving it the same way we found it,” Freehauf said. “They’ll be no movie theater unless someone else comes into town.” 

As of December 29, no movie theatres have opened in Athens.

Read the full story here.

Huntsville St. Patrick’s Day returns after two years

(City of Huntsville)

Huntsville’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade made its grand return in March after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The returning parade coincided with St. Patrick’s Day events across the Rocket City.

Read the full story here.

Nelly headlines Sand Mountain Amphitheatre’s first ‘Tacos and Tequila’ night

FILE – This Oct. 6, 2018 file photo shows Nelly performing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP, File)

Grammy-winning artist Nelly brought down the house and rang in the summer season at the Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater (SMPA) in May.

The inaugural “Tacos and Tequila” concert event featured Nelly, along with Chingy, Baby Bash, and D.J. Skribble. The night featured those artists along with a variety of food and drinks for those that flocked to the amphitheater.

Read the full story here.

Rocket City Pride returns for 10th year

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Rocket City Pride used every color of the rainbow to celebrate its 10th birthday in Huntsville back in October.

The main event was Pridefest, an all-day festival celebrating the local LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, the organization held parties, comedy hours, and a parade to commemorate the special occasion.

The headlining act of Pridefest was Eureka O’Hara from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” at the Orion Amphitheater.

Read the full story here.