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The Wonderland Theater was built in 1921 and operated until 1931 when it was renamed the York Theater.
It closed in May 1966. During segregation, the York served both white and black audiences with the black folks sitting in the balcony with a separate ticket booth just inside the entry door. I was told that there were no provisions for concessions for them.
A local historian told me that it reopened for a short period on weekends under the name Lisa.
I had a chance to tour the theater today – or what is left of it. It has been heavily remodeled and hard to tell anything about its theater days. The original doors are in place with a double set.
The whites entered through the left hand doors with the ticket booth directly inside to the right.
Black entered through the right hand doors with the ticket booth to the left (served by the same person) with the stairs to the balcony straight ahead.
The balcony is still in place but all the seats are gone. The balcony is being used as storage.
The Projection room is there but the projectors were sold for salvage.
Downstairs you the stage is still standing in the rear but again the whole area is storage.
The owner told me that he removed the metal ends off each aisle and sold them for a handsome price on ebay.
It was great to visit but sad overall.
The Motion Picture Daily shows an opening year of 1947 also.
This was the Messick Theater being converted into a private home in Aug 1977
The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures shows this theater opening in 1932 and it was still operating as late as 1956. There were 286 seats.
I took the photo that is on this site. That building is now gone.
I live in the area. I have asked a ton of old timers about this drive in and there are no memories of such. I have checked the local newspaper for ads (over 30 years) and have yet to find such. I have Movie Theaters Annuals from 1928 to 1960 and this theater is not listed at all. Makes you wonder, does it not?
History of this Theater:
Essex Theater opened in 1930 with 400 seats Essex Theater closed in 1936.
The New Essex opened in 1936, closed in 1938.
The DAW opened in 1939 and closed in 1998. Closing date confirmed by the last operator.
Per the current operator, this theater opened in 2000
This theater opened in March 1997 and operated as the Regal 12 until Jan 2005. In May 2005, it reopened as the Riverdale Cinema Cafe. Still open as of this date.
Opened in July 1965 and closed in 1997
Operated as the Sidney Lust from 1949 to 1969 then became the Hampton Drive in from 1969 to 1979. XXX in its last days. The rear of the big screen faced the Pembroke Ave, the main drag at that time between Newport News and Hampton.
Local records indicate that this theater closed in 1921-1922.
Operated from1972 to 1997
The Stuart was located at 1811 Wickham Ave being the second theater with this name. This theater operated from 1944 – 1954 and was a part of the Gordon Chain. There was an earlier Stuart at 2009 Wickham which was a Silent and operated from 1919-1920.
Per local records, the Strand operated as a silent theater from 1919-1925. Located on Newport News Main Street – Washington Ave.
This map came from a person who attended the theater in his youth.
It was located at 2414 Warwick Ave and operated from 1929-1932 per local records.
According to Newport News City Directories, it was located at 3107 Washington Ave. This was the center of the downtown area. It operated from 1915 to 1928 – so it appears that this was a silent theater. It had 650 seats. This would have been across the street from the Olympic Theater which had a later life as the James Theater which was located at 3100 Washington Ave.
According to Newport News City Directories, this theater opened in 1917 and was in business through 1972. It was a theater on Jefferson Ave which was the center of the African American neighborhood at that time.
This movie closed in 1934 and the building was converted into offices and apartments. That is what it is today. It is a couple blocks off Duke of Gloucester Street. The New Imperial was built in 1932 as a result of being forced to move due to restoration in Colonial Williamsburg. It closed in 1934 because the area was unable to sustain two theaters – with the other theater being the Williamsburg Theater in the restored area. When it closed, it was converted into stores on the ground floor and offices, apartments and suites in the upstairs.
Per local newspaper ads, the Wythe operated from 1939 to 1981
I have an ad dated Feb. 1, 1973 for this theater playing “Hannie Caulder” with Raquel Welch