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I ran across this in April 2014. It is just a couple of blocks from the Church that was used in High Noon with Gary Cooper. I was looking for the church and rode by this old theater – just a shell but still there.
Based on information in the Motion Picture Daily and local newspaper ads, the Theater operated from 1931 to 1982.
I have the opening ad dated Oct 16, 1931 and the last ad that I found featuring a film is dated Feb 11, 1982.
A March 4, 1982 story states that the interior of the theater was covered with soot when the furnace malfunctioned and that it would reopen when possible. I can find no record of it opening as a movie theater though I have been told that it operated as a venue for fund raisers and local plays for a while.
Quoting a news story- “The Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department upgraded its equipment. For years the company raised money by running the Rapanna Theater. In 1992, the company bought a $280,000 fire truck with proceeds from the theater and bingo.”
In Jan 1996, the theater building collapsed due to heavy snow and ice. It was demolished and now is an empty lot.
This theater operated under 3 different names as follows. Sources include the Southside Sentinel, the local newspaper in Urbanna, Va and the Motion Picture Daily publications
Middlesex Drive In – Grand Opening April 16, 1953
Middlesex Drive In – Closed on Oct 3, 1957
Midway Drive In – opened April 11, 1958
Midway Drive In – closed June 12, 1958
Middlesex Drive In – reopened July 24, 1958
Middlesex Drive In – last ad found Sept 25, 1958
Note- Motion Picture Daily shows open until 1960
Vista Drive In – opened July 15, 1965
Vista Drive In – last ad Oct 15, 1966
Note – No listings for this theater in the Motion Picture Daily
Hey CharmainZoe, sorry for my misread. But a ton of thanks for the source, it has filled a big hole in my research. Are you familiar with the Motion Picture Daily Archives. Can get you there if you need to.
Hey CharmainZoe, thanks for the update. The Newport News City Directory shows it for the first time in 1920 which would agree with 1919 since the Dir. generally trails a year. I have a June 1920 ad that shows the Lincoln being managed by William M. Moseley with E.C. Brown as President and General Manager which supports your post. However, there has never been, to my knowledge, a Dunbar in Newport News. There was a Dunbar across the water in Norfolk. Could you tell me where you got your information because it might serve me in my local research.
Hi Stromley, what a find. Could you scan it in and post it for us to see.
Chuck1231, I do not know if the theater is able to show feature films or not. However, the only things that they advertise are plays and concerts. Have attended a few plays there. Will ask the next time that I am there. It is a very nice theater but I wish that it was still the Lee that I attended as a kid.
According to local City Directories and historical books:
The Academy of Music operated from 1900 to 1927. It was demolished and rebuilt as the Paramount in 1931 and operated until 1978 when it closed due to a lack of business. A story about the opening of the Paramount in the Oct. 3, 1931 Daily Press states the seating as 1350.
The Paramount opened briefly for a short period but again business caused it to close it doors again. It operated from 1980 to 1981.
It was demolished in 1988. Elvis performed here in the 50’s. In the late 70s, it was a XXX theater.
It appears that the Messick Theater on Poq. Ave opened for business on Dec. 3. 1931 as a part of the Scott chain that also owned the American in Phoebus and the Scott in Hampton. The American would later become the Lee, the Scott would later become the Langley.
There was a silent Messick that operated from about 1925 to 1930 at 6 Messick Road. It was condemned by the state to widen the road. Pottsie Martin, whose mother lived there, told me that the house was cut into and the back of the theater became the front of the house. His parents added a new back to the house and it is still there on Messick Road.
The Messick Theater closed in the early 70’s. The last listing that I found in the local newspaper was in June 1971 however the Poq. City Directory has a listing for the Messick as late as 1974, nothing after that.
The Messick Theater was remodeled into a private home and sits there today. It was up for auction a couple of weeks ago.
A Facebook comment from someone who grew up in Poquoson posted April 4, 2013
i remember the old capitol theater so well— they use to have compitions there also— i remember playing the piano in one of the compitations—needless to say i didnt t win—lol— but momma entered me inn it and told me practice girl —and i did— i remember some of the stories about the old Capitol Theater— and even after when it was the zipper factory— and also the man that murdered his wife and then came and parked behind d the theater and killed himself—-and yes they had air conditioning —lol— was a good place to go and so was the Messick theater— at least we had someplace to walk too on the friday and saturday evenings and sunday was strickly church— youth fellowship—its a lot of the stories and memories of both theaters but i mainly went to Messick Thester— just to see mr. bucher and see if he still had his ring on !!! lol—such good memories and sweet laughter !!!
I was given a copy of a Fire Report dated Nov 29, 1951 showing a major fire at this theater causing an estimated damage of $20K. The last ad that I found in the newspaper was dated just a couple of days later – none after that. Assume that it never reopened.
The original Imperial was opened in November 1924, closed in 1932 and was located on Duke of Gloucester Street in downtown Williamsburg before the restoration of the city. It sat approximately where the Kimball Theater sits today in Merchants Square.
Previously the Colonial Theater (a black theater) operated at this same address from 1919-1929.
I got the following note from a Poq. native with memories of the Messick
The Messick Theater was located at 1279 Poquoson Avenue near Trinity United Methodist Church. It started out as home which was sold to A.D. Page, J.W. Rollins, and J.T. Rollins, trustees for the Charity Conclave Number 5, Heptasophs or Seven Wise Men for $50.00. It was sold by Littleton and Jannette Watkins on October 2, 1896. The Heptasophs sold the house to Linwood I. Burcher who then converted the building into the Messick Theatre. It had a half bricked front and tickets were bought from the front booth. Tickets cost 25 cents and a popcorn machine was located to the left after you entered the doors into the foyer. It also contained a staircase which led to the balcony and the projection room. It was sold again in June of 1974 to James Moore who bought the Theatre as an investment I know one of the movies shown during the second time was Dr. Zhivago.
I got the following note from a Poq. native who has memories of the Capital.
Capital Movie Theater located at 1022 Poquoson Avenue. When the Capital closed, it became a dress sewing factory. My mother worked there. Later became a Baptist church which burned down in 1992. Now located at the site is the St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church just down the street from the Poquoson Middle School which was Poquoson High School at the time. Not only movies were shown, but talent shows and country music acts such as Sunshine Sue were held. The first color movie I ever saw was at this theater and was “Sampson and Delilah” in the early 1950s. I also participated in the talent shows dancing with Field’s Dance Studio.
I have removed a couple of posts with a bit of misinformation and am posting the following, which I think is accurate.
Per local records:
The American Theater at 119 E. Mellen Street in Phoebus opened in Jan.1909 and burned down in 1911/1912 per a Daily Press News story.
It opened again in 1912 and closed as the American in March 1932.
It opened a few days later in March 1932 as the Lee Theater and remained in business until 1968.
In May 1968, it became the Lee Adult Theater and remained in business as such until Oct 1984.
In Oct 1986, it opened as the New American and remained open until June 1996. It was a a theater that served meals along with the show and was operated by Smith & Wade, local entertainers.
In June 2000, it opened as the American, a cultural center operated by the Hampton Arts Center.
I just posted a news photo from the local newspaper, Sept 3, 1981 showing the Warwick Theater being demolished.
Chuck1231, just noticed that you posted the car capacity. Can you tell me where that originated and the years that it shows it to be.. By the way, I can find no entry for this theater in the Motion Picture Daily which supposedly listed all the theaters up to 1970 or so.
Chuck1231, I just don’t think that the Palisades existed. I have newspaper ads for the last days of the Stockade that agree with their disappearing from the listings in the City Directory. I have the same for the B&L Drive In. There are no listings for the Palisades in the City Directory, old Phone Directories, or newspaper ads. Just cannot verify that it existed plus none of the folks that grew up in the area have any memory of this theater – nor do the folks at the local newspaper in Williamsburg.
Last ad found – not sure if this is last ad or not
Found the news story that showed the Lyric closed on Aug 31, 1947 and reopened on Nov 8, 1947 as the Basie, named after Count Basie. Count Basie played 5 concerts on April 24, 1948
Per the opening day ad, the Carver opened for business in Oct 1946
Based on news stories in the Norfolk Journal and Guide, it appears that the Lincoln closed in 1927 and was immediately renamed the Capitol. Just months later, the Capitol was sold to Elder Michaux who converted it into a Church of God.
There was a story dated Sept 10, 1927 announcing that the Capitol was opening in the old Lincoln Theater on Jefferson Ave.
Another story dated Nov 5, 1927 tells of the opening of Church of God in the old Capitol Theater Building.
The building still stands and and is the Gospel Spreading Church of God to this day.
Found a story announcing the opening of the Rim Theater – opened July 4, 1949.