Center Theatre 4

2000 Chapel Hill Road,
Durham, NC 27707

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Time capsule

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Located in the Lakewood Shopping Center, it opened on November 24, 1966 as the Lakewood Center Theatre. It was the Triangle’s first Ultravision theatre and the first modern design theatre that had rocking chair seating (with reserved sections), six-channel stereophonic sound and a 180-degree Ultravision widescreen that was capable of showing bigger presentations. The auditorium was huge and spacious with a seating capacity of 800. It was one of several designed by architectural firm Six Associates. By October 24, 1971, a second auditorium was built adjacent to the original, that was also a 180-degree Ultravision screen, and a seating capacity of 600. It was re-named Center 1 & 2 under ABC Southeastern Theatres. By 1983, the original auditorium was split down the middle into two sections creating two shoe-box auditoriums that had smaller screens and 400 seats in each when it was under Plitt Southern Theatres.

By 1986, the second auditorium was split down the middle into two sections as well, that made the auditoriums seem quite long and narrow with 300 seats in each, making this a four screen quad cinema complex, now run by Cineplex Odeon. Carmike Cinemas took over this theatre in 1991, when it still proved quite a draw for showing major blockbuster films when a screening of “Boyz In The Hood” drew record crowds.

The Center Theatre 4 remained the place of movie-going crowds. All of that changed by the mid-1990’s when newer and bigger multiplxes that were being built, and the Center Theatre 4 fell out of favor., and began to screen second-run films in order to stay afloat. Also, the surrounding area around Lakewood was losing business which didn’t help to draw in movie-goers to stay open. Carmike closed this theatre in 2001, and was later converted into a surplus store run by Duke University.

Contributed by Jimmy Storey, Raymond

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

DavidDymond on November 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Oh my beloved Center 4 Theatres!! Visited these theatres many many times in DURHAM!! Yes, the area was perceived to be rough, but never had any problems there! Outside this building, on the left hand side of the boxoffice is a time capsule from 1966, the year this theatre was built. Probably built for Wilby-Kincey, (A Paramount Theater associate), later operated by ABC. and then Plitt Southern followed by Cineplex-Odeon, maybe operated by Carmike Theaters for a while (Yeeccch!!)

raysson on November 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

David Dymond: I loved and grew up going to the Center Theatre at Lakewood as a kid. I basically don’t know how many movies I saw here,but before the perceived area became a rough neighborhood,this theatre was a showpalace of great movies which had one of the largest auditoriums in the state….It was a magical place in its heyday…..It originally opened on November 24,1966(under Wilby-Kincey) as the Lakewood Center Theatre. Was twinned in 1971(under ABC Theatres) and later was triple and quad by 1983 and 1986(under Plitt Southern and Cineplex Odeon).

The theatre really went downhill during the mid-1990’s when this theatre became a discount house where you had a high level of crime activity,and became a haven for whatever came through…..I never worked there,but I saw a lot of second run movies there…..Carmike Cinemas closed it in 2001. The building is still there BTW….but I do know about that time capsule from 1966 that is on the left side of the box-office. The reason why it closed is that the building became a surplus store for Duke University which closed in 2009. Nowadays,the building has been turned from what I heard is now a strip club…a total disgrace to a once great movie palace that became the heart of Durham.

raysson on November 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm

David Dymond:

Carmike basically had total control of all indoor moviehouses in the Durham area. This was Carmike’s decision to closed The Northgate Twin in 1985,not to mention the closing of the The Yorktowne Theatre on Chapel Hill Blvd. in 1996,and the Ram Triple in Chapel Hill in 2000.

When the Center 4 closed in 2001 only three moviehouses under Carmike Cinemas remained opened…The Carmike Cinemas 7(off Avondale Drive which closed in 2004),and the Willowdaile Cinemas 8(off Guess Road in North Durham closed in June of 2005)

In 2001,the Wynnsong Cinemas in Durham REMAINS the only Carmike operated movie theatre between Durham and Chapel Hill. And to this day is still operational.

raysson on December 13, 2012 at 11:06 am

David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA played at the Center Theatre,aka The Lakewood Center Theatre in 1971 as a re-release.

raysson on December 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

This theatre in its heyday played GONE WITH THE WIND numerous times during it’s re-release….I remember seeing it in 1980 to packed audiences in DOBLY STEREO

raysson on February 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm

“THE EXORCIST” played here to capacity crowds on March 1, 1974.

“CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND” was the BIG Christmas attraction on December 16,1977.

rivest266 on November 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Waiting for the time capsule to open at the end of 2016.

Drewmike on November 13, 2015 at 1:10 pm

I saw back to the future 2 there in 1989. Lol I had no idea a time capsule was there for 2016. Ha ha 1 year after Marty McFly arrives.

raysson on November 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Drewmike: I saw not only “Back to the Future 2” here but also “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in 1989…but the Center’s showing of “Boyz In The Hood” and “New Jack City” brought in capacity crowds in 1991…. Nobody knows that a time capsule was placed there for 2016…. November 24,1966 was the year this theatre opened replacing the Downtown moviehouse that closed….

raysson on November 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm

In it’s earlier days as a single screen movie house it was the reserved seat engagements of “Camelot” along with “The Sound of Music”, “My Fair Lady”, “2001” and the 70mm versions of “Gone With The Wind”, “Doctor Zhivago”,“Patton”,and “Ben Hur”(re-release)

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