Garden Theater in Charleston in Danger

posted by JohnColes on April 30, 2004 at 6:11 am

CHARLESTON, SC — A few dozen people gathered on Monday night, April 26, to discuss a strategy for saving the Garden Theater as a theater. It was recently sold to a group of investors who plan to lease it to a national clothing chain. Many said converting the theater to retail space would be a loss for the city.

Jonathan Poston of the Historic Charleston Foundation said that would be “a perfect example of the mall-ization of King Street. If Charleston wants a theater on King Street that is still a theater… the community has to come up with the money.”

The current owners paid more than $1.6 million and it is not known if they are interested in selling the theater. Some at the meeting suggested convincing the new owners to retain the interior details so a future restoration might be possible. All attending said that something needs to be done.

“The question is: Can we translate this interest into something tangible.” said Ralph Hicks, a member of the League of Historic American Theaters. A second meeting is planned for May 17.

Theaters in this post

Comments (1)

dispar on June 4, 2004 at 10:25 am

I just visited Charleston (my hometown) last week during the SPOLETO arts festival and as always, rode my bike along King Street to see the cinema vestiges of a bygone era. During my childhood I attended movies regularly at the Classic 4 King Street theatres: The American, Gloria, Riviera, and The Garden. Sadly, only The American still shows movies and it’s recent renovation has divided the theatre into two screens (but at least its still a movie theatre).

While the facades of the Gloria and Riviera (with its famed Art Deco design) remain, the interiors are gone.

Hopefully, The Garden can be restored as a movie theatre, but unless the city subsidizes the project on a continuous basis, it cannot survive. Charleston does not have a sophisticated film culture to support movies so the city government would have to heavily market and promote The Gardens as both an historic landmark (as it has often done with the historic residences of the city) and as a delightful moviegoing experience.

I would suggest that the city government heavily solicit the patronage of The College of Charleston (just around the corner from the theatre), it’s substantial convention and tourist business, and SPOLETO to revitalize The Garden as an entertainment/cultural destination.

I developed a lifelong appreciation of movies (both as a vocation, working in film marketing and distribution with Paramount Studios and the Walt Disney Studios for over 21 years, and as an avocation) while patronizing these King Street theatres (and the only theatre not downtown, the Ashley in St. Andrews Parish) during the 50s, 60s, and early 70s.

While The Garden will probably not survive as a movie theatre, at least I have my memories. As Director Raoul Walsh wrote in his autobiography 30 years ago, “MEMORIES ARE A FORM OF IMMORTALITY, AS MEMORIES ARE YOUNG FOREVER.”

Thanks for the memories King Street!

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment