Charleston Cinema

333 North Callow Avenue,
Bremerton, WA 98312

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The little Charleston Cinema had fallen into decay but was still showing films up to early-2005. The couple, Eric and Frances Meyer, who were last to run it threw in the towel and let it be taken over for use as a club called Gstyle Knights Nightclub, and they immediately mucked up the marquee so it wouldn’t even resemble a theater anymore, painting their club name on it in freestyle lettering.

Before the Meyers took over the theater it had set empty for a few years, and had been a porno house before that, so it was a noble effort to bring it back to life as a revival cinema.

Yet the Meyers focused on children’s and family films always third-run and discount. For a while they had retro “Rocky Horror” first-Friday-and-Saturday of each month, and even had free matinees striving to serve the community as well as humanly possible. But nothing they did would bring in reliable audiences; they couldn’t even give the tickets away.

The Meyers' valliant efforts to keep the theater alive included trying to start up a flea market and waging a campaign to get 1,400 people to donate $100 each to save the cinema, but getting other companies to underwrite free matinees was a great idea. If they’d had more knowledge of cinema they might have filled a missing niche in this area for independent cinema, foreign films, mini-festivals like of samurai films or Luis Bunuel — there would’ve been no competition. But trying to be family oriented in a neighborhood with no parking but plenty of porno and rifles never worked. They were heroic to last five years.

By 2010, the Charleston Cinema had reopened.

Contributed by paghat

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

ghamilton
ghamilton on September 10, 2005 at 12:32 am

Bremerton has never been a cultural high spot on the map of W WA.

KenLayton
KenLayton on September 13, 2005 at 1:24 pm

Parking around this theater is on-street and extremely limited. There’s also a porno theater four doors down and on the same side of the street.

rodeojack
rodeojack on October 2, 2005 at 9:30 pm

The Charleston Cinema was one of Bremerton’s first movie theatres. It was born, the “Grand” cinema. In the early ‘80s, a well-known Seattle porn purveyor remodeled the theatre, taking out the small upper balcony, converting the cry room into an office and installing new heat, screen and automatic reversing projectors. It was reborn the “Playtime Grand”, running porn films with a staff of one. Tickets were sold at the end of the small concession counter, and a remote control panel operated the projectors upstairs.

As porn moved increasingly to video, cable and early c-band satellite, patronage at the “Playtime” dwindled. The owner changed the theatre’s name to the “Charleston” and attempted to run mainstream content. Unfortunately for him, a Portland chain (Tom Moyer’s Luxury Theatres) already had a firm hold on the first-run market, and the theatre was forced to run older fare.

In late 1986, the Moyer chain got into a spat with Paramount pictures. For a while, they either refused to run their films or were cut off by the studio. Being the only non-chain theatre in town, the Charleston enjoyed a short lived bonanza, booking “Crocodile Dundee” in September, and “Star Trek, The Voyage Home” in November. For a while, the only place you could see those films was at that one theatre, and naturally, it was packed! The owner siezed on the opportunity and engaged in an aggressive campaign to sell the place as a “hugely profitable first-run theatre”.

Unfortunately, nobody bought the place, the Moyer company made up with Paramount, Paramounts pictures returned to the chain houses and the Charleston was once again relegated to sub-run films. It closed soon after.

Several years later, the owners of the local “Rodeo Drive-In” reopened the theater, attempting to establish it as a neighborhood discount house. However, they experienced the same lackluster attendance the previous operators did, and closed the theatre within a few months.

8 years later, The theatre was reopened under the ownership of the Meyers'. That story is told in the posts above.

rodeojack
rodeojack on October 2, 2005 at 9:34 pm

Oh… one detour in the theatre’s history: Prior to the short 1980’s first-run experience, the porn operator leased the theatre to a local couple who, for a short time, did attempt to run art, foreign films and independent fare. They painted the front of the theatre a vivid purple… a color which outlasted their operation by more than 10 years! Getting rid of that purple was one of the first things the Meyers did! :)

kateymac01
kateymac01 on December 9, 2005 at 7:08 pm

Is this theater just sitting there empty? Is it for lease or for sale?

rodeojack
rodeojack on November 12, 2007 at 6:41 pm

The “G-style Knights” business has closed, and the theatre is once again available. Whether it could be used as a theatre is questionable though. The owners leveled the floor in order to convert it to a night club. They have said it could be restored, though one would question whether it would be worthwhile.

At this point, pretty much everything has been tried there… first run, sub run, discount, art/independent and live. Its size, location, surrounding businesses and lack of parking may make it difficult to run a successful theatre. However, there’s always someone out there with a new idea, and the building is for sale if you think you have the magic answer!

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on December 5, 2010 at 9:16 pm

On my way to the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton last Friday, I passed by the Charleston Cinema… and it was OPEN.
I also like the unusual old projector image above the marquee. Hey, good for them.

KenLayton
KenLayton on July 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm

The Bremerton Cinema (adult movies) is just a few doors to the left of this theater.

SteveSwanson
SteveSwanson on March 25, 2014 at 5:04 am

The Charleston has been here since 2008. All ages music hall, with bar in the back. Open Thursday – Saturday only, cover charge is usually $5. It appears that the screen is still up and they are only using the very front part of the stage.

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