Sunday, November 16, 2008

Carolina Theatre March 1927

Opening month-

March 1, 1927

March 2, 1927

March 3, 1927

March 4, 1927

March 5, 1927

March 6, 1927

March 6, 1927

March 7, 1927

March 8, 1927

March 9, 1927

March 10, 1927

March 11, 1927

March 20, 1927

March 21, 1927

1931 exterior shot

1927 interior shot

1927 interior shot


1953 exterior shot

1956 exterior-the night Elvis was in town

1975 exterior shot

1977 exterior shot

1980 exterior shot

1985 entrance photo

Above three interior pictures from 1985


  1. Great post. It's sad that more of these old-time houses weren't saved. Ones that come to mind are the Fox in Atlanta, the Tennessean in Knoxville, and the Princess in Decatur, Alabama. The first weekend I spent in grad school I was bored and just so happened to see an ad for Casablanca playing at the Tennessean, so I went. What an experience! If there's someone reading who's never had the opportunity to go into a real, old-time movie house -- do it!

    With regards to the Carolina Theatre...where exactly did the entrance stand, and what's left today? I *think* that the answer is a) off of Tryon and b) not much. Every time I walk up Tryon to the library, I pass that empty spot where there's a "Carolina Theatre: The Best is Yet To Come" banner and a door marked "entrance," but I can't visualize anything that would fit in with these pictures. There is an old, brick building there, but it doesn't extend toward the street -- was it perhaps cut in half at some point? I think when I first moved here in 2004 there was a crumbling facade still up, but I can't recall much other than that.

    Maybe I'll make good on my threat to take my camera Uptown to work one day and shoot some present day comparison. Last I saw there were plans to build a 12-story or so condo tower with some ridiculous car elevator in it on the spot where the Theatre stodd...but with the current economic situation, who knows. But the empty portion of the land there seems way too small to put either a condo tower or the Carolina Theatre there.

    Hope some of that makes sense...I think I'm getting tired and need to go to bed now!


  2. Thanks (as always) Matt for your comment.

    The theatre closed in November 1978 (the last movie shown was a Bruce Lee movie). In November 1985, the Cutter family (the original family that built and owned the theatre), sold it to the Carley Capital Group (they had built University Place). The plan was to incorporate the theatre with CityFair (the downtown shopping that would be located directly behind the theatre). In 1988 with the announcement of CItyFair, the plan was to convert the theatre into a restaurant and dance club and have two different entrances connected directly to CityFair. Shortly after the renovations began to the theatre, Carley Capital went bankrupt. CityFair and the theatre were deeded to the City of Charlotte in 1989 by Chemical Bank (they had acquired the properties from Carley Capital). The city sold CityFair but wound up keeping the theatre. I believe the city still owns the theatre to this day and no current decisions have been made as to what to do next for the theatre. During the Summer of 1996, the theatre actually reopened for a very short film festival which included a guided tour of the entire building. The theatre was not in very good shape, so tickets were limited to 150 per show.

    The empty space you see on Tryon was where the theatre lobby once stood--it was demolished in a horrible error because the then owner (Carley Capital) thought it was structurally unsafe (which is was not). All that remains today is the theatre auditorium--this is the large all-brick structure towards the back of the lot.

    Fun facts about the theatre--

    First film to play there-- "A Kiss In The Taxi" with Bebe Daniels
    Most popular run of a film - "The Sound of Music" in 1965-- it played for over a year.
    There were 900 orchestra seats and 550 balcony seats
    Some of the famous celebrities that appeared on the stage (in-person)--Tom Mix, Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, and Ethel Barrymore
    When it opened in 1927, it was the only theatre (as well as the only public building in Charlotte) between NYC and Atlanta to have air-conditioning (or as they used to say--it manufactured its own weather).

  3. p.s. the entrance was on Tryon. There was also some small shops to the left of the theatre towards the corner. I will post some additional photos that show this...

  4. Wow -- that's great, Pat. Those new pictures were exactly the perspective I needed to fit it all into place.

    How sad to see the shots from 1980 and 1985!

    Looking around this morning, I found a wonderful site on the theatre that I'll pass along to any other interested parties:

    Thanks again, Pat!

  5. Really great post, Pat. It's a travesty how these great movie palaces have been so mistreated. The Paramount Publix story fascinates me - it was a huge empire built over just a few years in the late 20's and early 30's. The depression ensured that it didn't last long.

  6. Thanks, Dave! I have my fingers crossed that something with happen with the Carolina Theatre at some point--it's been sitting unused for way too long.