Studio 1 Theater

2408 Hillsborough Street,
Raleigh, NC 27607

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Varsity Theatre in Raleigh grand opening on November 9, 1941 with 505 seats

First opened as the Varsity Theater on November 9, 1941, with a seating capacity of 505. It was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc.

I never went to this theater. But, I remember it being located on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC, located across from NC State University. It became Studio 1 in the early-1970’s. Then it was closed and turned into a McDonald’s which is now a book store.

I remember the new Studio I & II that was opened up the street in the Electric Company Mall. God, that was AWFUL!!! It was claustrophobic and the seats were uncomfortable as hell.

Contributed by Travis Tarrant

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

raysson on July 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I have an ad from the News and Observer from November 23,1957 for the reserved seat engagement showing of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that had it’s Eastern North Carolina premiere at the Varsity Theatre in Raleigh,NC. If you need to see the ad,please contact me at this address:

I also have the full ad for the reserved seat engagement for the Eastern North Carolina premiere for May 16,1957 for the showing of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS that played at Raleigh’s Varsity Theatre.

raysson on July 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Travistarrant: I fondly remember the STUDIO 1 Theatre that after 1975 played a lot of independent films and foreign releases not to mention reissue of vintage Hollywood classics….Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca got a lot of play time here as well it a much loved favorite among the college crowd…..Before it closed in the mid-1980’s it became a notorious haven for late night porn(not to mention showed anything with skin,not to mention the only theatre in the state that played “XXX” rated gay porn…a Jeff Stryker 35MM gay porno play at this theatre back in the mid-80’s),and the usual Rocky Horror Picture Show night owl flick on Friday nights. Sometimes a lot of rehash 70’s vintage got the reissue treatment too before it closed…a prime favorite that got played over and over at the Studio 1 was Mel Brooks' “Blazing Saddles” that was a huge college crowd favorite among the management.

The Studio 1 closed in 1989 when it moved a block west down the street next to the Electric Company Mall across from N.C. State University and it renamed the Studio I & II which was awful and claustrophobic with its narrow auditoriums and tight end seats which finally closed in 2000.

The Studio 1 movie theatre became a McDonald’s before it closed in 2000 when it became the North Carolina State University Textbook Store.

Micah on September 3, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Studio One closed in September of 1984. Studio I and II was opened at 2526 Hillsborough in 1987 by the same owner, Roy Harp.

Micah on September 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Also, I cannot remember exactly, but the McDonald’s closed around 1995.

Micah on September 6, 2013 at 3:26 pm

One more thing, the Varsity/Studio 1 had 350 seats when it closed. I’m nearly certain this was the capacity for it’s entire life. This was not a large theater at all. There is no way it could have ever sat 700 as the description above states.

raysson on March 6, 2014 at 10:13 am

THE SOUND OF MUSIC played here as a re-issue in October of 1966. It was a general release showing for those who didn’t see it the first time where it played for 61 weeks at Raleigh’s Ambassador Theatre.

raysson on March 6, 2014 at 10:18 am

Correct: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS was not a reserved seat engagement showing at Raleigh’s Varsity Theatre. The film’s Eastern North Carolina premiere was a reserved seat engagement on May 16,1957 as Raleigh’s State Theatre,not the Varsity Theatre.

The Varsity Theatre’s ONLY reserved seat engagement was for the Eastern North Carolina premiere showing of Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on November 23,1957.

I have in my possession the ads for this and if you need to see them please by all means contact me at the following address at

Thank You.

travistarrant on July 10, 2014 at 6:56 pm

The one thing I hated so much about the Studio 1 and 2 that opened up at The Electric Company Mall was the seats were so uncomfortable. It was like sitting on concrete slabs.

raysson on November 9, 2015 at 12:59 pm

VARSITY THEATRE opening November 9, 1941 with 505 seats. Closed in the early-1970’s when it became the STUDIO 1 cinema with 493 seats.

Jibby on February 25, 2016 at 7:35 am

I’ll always remember the Studio 1 because I first experienced the Marv Newland’s marvelous work “Bambi Meets Godzilla” there at an animation film festival in the mid 70’s.

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