Showing 11 comments
I don’t know about this being the first megaplex on a military installation. Carmike opened the Wynnsong 10 multiplex at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1996.
Something is wrong with a system that makes a theatre’s existence dependent on the sale of popcorn (and other concessions).
There are some small chains that still have reasonable admission and concession prices. Eastgate Cinemas (Albemarle, NC) and Carolina Mall Cinemas (Concord, NC) are first run houses with stadium seating. Matinees are $4.50; evenings are $6.50. A large popcorn is $4.00. I try to support these theatres and almost always purchase food there.
When I go to an AMC or Regal cinema in Charlotte, admission is $10, and a large popcorn is $7.50. I think about a year the AMC price was $6.75. I avoid concessions sat these sites, because they are absurd. How soon will a tub of popcorn cost $15.00?
I grew up watching movies at the Cameo and the Center in Rocky Mount, NC. From about the age of 8 to 18, I saw hundreds of movies at these two wonderful theatres. Features sometimes changed 2 or 3 times a week, and I just couldnâ€™t get enough. I would go as often as my parents would allow.
The Cameo was small; I am surprised at the 625 seats. The downstairs auditorium had two aisles. There were 7 seats to a row in the middle section and four seats to a row on the side sections, meaning there were only 15 seats from wall to wall. There was a very steep balcony which was only opened when the downstairs auditorium filled, which was not too often when I was there. The Cameo was part of the Charlotte, NC based Consolidated Theatres chain. I believe the manager during this period was Henry Hobbs.
The Cameo had a triangular marquee with flashing clear lights â€" no neon. The box office was centered between two sets of doors which had (always) shiny brass plates at the bases and handle areas. The lobby was extremely small. The restrooms were upstairs and also small. The menâ€™s room had only one urinal and one toilet. The theatre walls were plain plaster or cement, painted light blue and beige. Plastic looking art deco sconces were attached to the walls. And, the screen was small, at least smaller than the Centerâ€™s. The Atlantic Coast Line railroad tracks ran in front of the theatre (probably less than 100 feet), and you could easily hear the trains pass. Still, this was a wonderful place to me.
While the Cameo was small and simple, it was operated like a grand theatre. There were matinees every day, starting usually around 1 PM and closing around 11 PM. It was spotlessly clean, and shows started promptly on time. The Cameo showed every type of movie. They occasionally booked foreign language movies like Ingmar Bergmanâ€™s Wild Strawberries and The Devilâ€™s Eye. They showed many blockbusters like Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Airport. I tried to buy a ticket for Lolita but was (embarrassingly) turned away because of my age. The Cameo showed almost all the Universal and MGM releases. But, it is the rather out of the ordinary movies that I really remember like Mondo Cane, the many British comedies, the William Castle horror, Blood Feast, The Case of Patty Smith, etc. Showings usually included previews of coming attractions, Universal world news, and occasionally a short documentary/travelogue if the main feature did not have a long run time.
Until the early 1970s, Rocky Mount had only the two indoor theatres. Then, the single screen Cardinal, the Englewood twin, and the Oakwood twin all opened in the early to mid-1970s. So, the town went from 2 screens to 7 screens. This expansion left few good movies for the Cameo and Center. In order to survive, the Cameo switched to x-rated/porno films.
I believe at least two items in the Cameoâ€™s listing are incorrect. The theatre was not converted to retail space; it was DEMOLISHED. I know their location on the lower end of Main Street was only a small empty lot in 1982. Also, I believe the Cameo was still operating a few years after 1975. I was in Rocky Mount toward the latter part of the 1970s, went by the Cameo, and saw one of the same cashiers still working the box office.
The Cameo and Center are the places where I really learned to love movies.
Charlotte’s oldest operational movie theatre is the Manor, not the Park Terrace. The Manor has been showing movies since 1947.
The State operated at least through the late 1960s, and possibly, into the early 1970s. The first movie I saw there was Tom Jones. The theatre had a triangular marquee, and there was a balcony. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, the State was one of only two downtown Raleigh theatres. The other was the more palace-like Ambassador, one block away on Fayetteville Street.
Lost Memory indicated the State was part of the Paramount chain. That might have been true through the 1940s. I know that during the approximately last 15 years of the Stateâ€™s operations, it was NOT part of the Wilby-Kincy (Paramount) circuit. The Ambassador, Varsity, and Tower Drive-In were the only Wilby-Kincy Raleigh theatres at that time. I believe the State was an independent theatre. I know that sounds strange, because the State booked good movies, to include some Disney.
Civil rights protests were common in the early 1960s. In 1963, many theatres in the largest North Carolina towns agreed to voluntarily desegregate their facilities. This was prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act enactment. The owner of the State refused to desegregate. I remember seeing a local TV news story about this. The State was showing Love Is A Ball with Glenn Ford and Hope Lange. The story indicated there were larger crowds at the State that day, suggesting that people came out to support the Stateâ€™s decision, not necessarily to see the film.
Some type of nightclub operated in the State after it closed. I remember the advertisements, but I never went. I believe that venture was short-lived. Afterwards, the State sat empty for years. I havenâ€™t been back in a long time and do not know the present status.
The Plaza Theatre was part of the Charlotte, North Carolina based Consolidated Theatres chain. The Plaza had a great location at the intersection of The Plaza and Central Avenue, just off the very busy Independence Blvd. Except for an unusual scalloped marquee, the Plaza was a plain, undecorated neighborhood theatre, yet it was clean and well managed. The Plaza usually opened around 1 PM everyday with continuous showings until around 11 PM.
Even as a neighborhood theatre, the Plaza showed first run films. I think one of the Plazaâ€™s most successful runs was with THE GRADUATE during the 1967-1968 Christmas holiday season. There were extremely long lines for weeks. I saw several films at the Plaza.
The Plaza continued to show first run films into the very early 1970â€™s. By the early 1970â€™s, the Plaza did/could not book major releases. The ultra modern Capri had opened in 1964 on Independence Blvd. General Cinema opened the Eastland Mall 3 further down Central Avenue, and the Regency Twin opened in 1973. Faced with more modern competition and changing demographics, Plaza bookings became less desirable grade-B type movies. A 1971 booking was â€œPreachermanâ€ â€" typical for the Plaza during the early 1970â€™s.
I believe the Plaza switched abruptly to X-rated/porno films in 1975. I remember seeing the movie ads in the Charlotte Observer when the Plaza switched. I believe their first porno booking was â€œA Dirty Westernâ€. The Plaza soon called itself the Plaza Pussycat. I do not know how long Consolidated Theatres remained associated with the Plaza. Consolidated also operated the Cameo in Rocky Mount, NC, which switched to porno about this same time. The Plaza Pussycat opened at 10 AM. It operated as Charlotteâ€™s premier adult movie house for about a decade.
After the porno era ended, the Plaza was not quite finished. North Carolina based American Multi-Cinema began operating the Plaza as a discount (99 cents) house for a short period. This last venture for the Plaza was short-lived. Eventually, the Plaza was demolished, and a bank was built on the Plaza site.
Cineplex Odeon (CO) assumed operations of the Carnegie Hall Cinemas in 1987. Initially CO operated only the 237 seat larger theatre; ICN operated the 78 seat screening room. In 1990 or 1991, CO assumed operations of both screens. Cineplex Odeon restored the Canegie Hall and reopened it in 1987 with “Withnail and I”. There was a bit of controversy with this opening. CO established a $7.00 regular admission at the Carnegie Hall, becoming the first Manhattan cinema to charge $7.00. All other Manhattan cinemas charged $6.00 or less in 1987. Even the Carnegie Hall Screening Room charged $6.00 at the same box office. I saw a televised interview with Cineplex Odeon CEO Garth Drabinsky shortly after the Carnegie Hall reopened. He was asked why this theatre was charging a $7.00 admission. He explained that CO had invested over one million dollars in restoring the Carnegie Hall to its turn of the century appearance and that CO needed the extra fare to pay for the renovations/restoration.
I believe “My Life As A Dog” played for a year in the screening room.
This theatre was a historic gem. I really liked this cinema and was extremely saddened to see it close.
The 42nd Street Bryant was showing softcore porn as early as the late 1960’s. Programming eventually went hardcore. The final years of the Bryant actually featured a “live-sex” show on stage with hardcore porn shown between the live acts. Admission to this type program was $3.99.
Cineplex Odeon twinned/renovated the National in 1987. I believe one of the opening attractions was “Predator” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cineplex Odeon also renovated the old Rialto, located diagonally across Broadway from the National, and renamed it the Warner. The National and Warner “re-opened” on the same date, and both theatres opened with “Predator”. According to Variety, the larger downstairs National screen had 1000 seats, and the upstairs (balcony) had 600 seats. I saw Broadcast News in the larger auditorium at a sold-out performance. In the late 1980’s, Cineplex Odeon did a great job of renovating and managing theatres that were either closed or in need of repairs.
The Gramercy has 574 seats. At one time (before all the multi-plexes), the Gramercy was one of the busiest cinemas in lower Manahttan. It did record breaking business for the Kevin Costner film “No Way Out”. I believe City Cinemas closed the Gramercy in 1992. Cineplex Odeon opened the 9-screen Chelsea Cinemas down the street from the Gramercy. After the Chelsea opening, major film bookings and large audiences disappeared from the Gramercy.
The correct name for this theatre was Charlottetown Mall Cinemas. This theatre never had 8 screens. It opened as a twin cinema. Years later the two auditoriums were split to make a 4-screen cinema. This theatre has significance for North Carolina. I believe it was the first multi-screen theatre in North Carolina, and it was General Cinema Corportion’s first entry into the North Carolina market. It was the first Charlotte theatre to institute a bargain matinee policy. Bargain matinees cost 50 cents but prices increased over the years. It was also the only cinema (that I know of) that had a smoking section in each auditorium. The smoking section was located in the middle of each auditorium and was distinguished by golden, tobacco-colored seats. The smoking sections were eliminated after a few years.
I believe the theatre opened around 1964 and closed around 1993. A twin cinema was a unique concept in 1964, particularly since other theatre chains continued to build single screen cinemas in North Carolina into the early 1970’s.
I saw many films at the Charlottetown. I never really liked this theatre. The seats were modern but very uncomfortable. There were no curtains or distinguishing decor. For me, the theatre became very uninviting after splitting into four cinemas. The seats were not properly angled to the screen. The theatre became uncomfortable and was void of any atmosphere or character.
The Charlottetown must have been a huge success as a twin cinema. I remember huge crowds here. By the late 1980’s the theatre was falling on difficult times. The demographics of the area was changing. Weekday matinees were elimated. Movie bookings became predominately action-type films.
This theatre was only a few blocks from downtown, but it seemed miles away. Theatre advertisements mentioned acres of free parking, and the parking lot was really immense. This property has become extremely valuable real estate. The theatre still stood a few months ago, but I understand it will be razed. Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) is located nearby, and I have read they want to expand on the property.