From The Archives
1927 Art Deco Theatre
Charlotte, North Carolina
Carolina Theatre Charlotte
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- Operated until 1975
- Restoration in progress
Explore the Carolina Theatre
The Carolina Theatre in Charlotte, NC is an historic American theater built in 1927 as part of Paramount's Publix Theatre chain. The exterior facade was designed by Charlotte's first preeminent architect, C.C. Hook, who also designed the Duke Mansion and Charlotte's historic Greek revival City Hall. The interior, decorated to evoke the illusion of an open air Spanish patio overlooking the azure skies of the Mediterranean, was created by the atmospheric theatre designer R.E. Hall of New York. The young construction company, J.A. Jones, built the theater for the Publix franchise owner, the Cutter family.
The theatre opened with great fanfare on March 7, 1927 and the Charlotte Observer produced a 14 page document commemorating the opening of the theatre. The Observer had many facts and ads congratulating the opening of the theatre the next day. The Carolina was a small movie palace adorned with many of the same type of amenities of some of its larger theatre cousins. Air conditioning was one of the extras that the theatre had to offer its patrons; most people had not even heard of air conditioning at the time. Beautiful “egg & dart” molding, made of plaster adorned the entire ceiling while an eight rank Wurlitzer organ played music to go along with the latest silent film.
Sam Katz was the president of the Publix Theatre Chain at the time. Katz and his associates held the belief that the success of the theatre operation depended on the character of its personel. He felt the most important thing was the courtesy extended to the patron from his staff. Even the cashiers, doormen, and footman were expected to live up to his high expectations. The Publix motto, “One of The Publix Theatres” was a badge of distinction which was recognized by discriminating theatre-goers throughout the US. Many of the finest theatres in the 1920’s and 1930’s were Publix theatres. The Rialto, Paramount, and Rivoli theatres in NY City and the Chicago, Oriental and Tivoli in Chicago were all owned by the Publix chain.
In 1938, the theatre had a major overhaul; the air conditioner was replaced, larger seats installed, new projectors and sound equipment were put in and the murals were replaced. The new murals were put on acoustic tiles to help the patrons hear the new “talkies” with more clarity. The original acoustics were so lively that the dialog could not be easily understood.
Throughout the years, the Carolina Theatre was the focal point for live entertainment in the Charlotte region. Road shows, musicals and other forms of entertainment brought such stars as Bob Hope, Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, Tom Mix, Jimmy Stewart, Ethyl Barrymore, Andy Griffith, Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Frank Sinatra and Elvis.
The following is a time line of major events in the theatre.
• Mar 7 1927 Theatre opens to public. A Kiss in a Taxi is first movie shown
• Mar 20 1932 The Charlotte Symphony gives its debut performance
• Jan 29, 1940 Gone With The Wind premiers at theater
• Mar,7 1943 Ethyl Barrymore performs on stage in The Corn is Green
• Oct 29 1953 New 40 ft Cinemascope screen installed
• Feb 10, 1956 Elvis performs on stage
• Dec 22, 1961 This is Cinerma opens after a two-week renovation that drastically alters theatre
• Mar 31, 1965 The Sound of Music starts its record breaking 79-week run.
• Nov 27,1978 Theatre closes after showing The Fist of Fury starring Bruce Lee
• Nov 13, 1980 Vagrants start a fire in the stage area but the fire curtain works and saves the theatre.
• Sept 1982 The theatre is placed on the Local Historic Register
• May 1987 City Fair project announce with a renovated Carolina Theatre as the anchor The theatre is envisioned as a multi-use facility with meeting space and conferences during the day.
• Oct 1988 City Fair opens but work is halted due to escalating cost. City Fair has already gutted the building, removing almost all the decorative and ornate objects from the theatre. The stage area is rebuilt to accommodate the planned seating area for the restaurant. Carley Capital Co who owns City Fair talks city into de-listing theatre from local historic register. The steel beams that were needed for the restaurant would not fit through the old lobby so it had to be torn down.
• September 1989 Metrolina Theatre Organ Society is formed
to help create interest in the theatre.
• October 1992 The original façade is cleaned up by Mark Huffstetler.
• April 1995 The public is invited for tours at Springfest. Over 4000
people tour the theatre.
• August 1996 A film series shows 8 classic films.
• August 30 1996 A “Phantom of The Opera” gala is held at the Theatre. Mary Tribble creates an award winning space for the event.
• December 31, 1996 First live performance in 30 years is given by Scott Foppiano on a Rodgers Theatre organ.
• Jan 1997 CTPS Formed by Charlie Clayton with $50,000 grant from the state of NC
• Oct 2005 Camden & CTPS start negotiations with the City of Charlotte to build a condo dev and restore the theatre.
• Jun 2006 Camden Mgt, Ark Mgt, City of Charlotte and CTPS reach agreement to go forward with the proposed condo project.
• Sept 2007 Camden has partnered with Jim Donnelly of Charlotte and announced the Encore Carolina Condo project. Doug Smith of the Observer writes “The Next Big Thing” article about the project.
• Apr 2013 Foundation of The Carolinas purchases the Carolina Theatre for $1.00 from the City of Charlotte. Their plans are to renovate the theatre.
Archived in December, 2015
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