320 South Salisbury Street,
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Architects: E.H. Geissler
The State Theatre opened to great fanfare on January 6, 1924, as Raleigh’s newest most elegant showplace that was located on S. Salisbury Street, just in the rear of the Wake Count Courthouse and within a minute’s walk of the city’s six hotels and downtown shops. The lower floor seated 700 while the upper balcony seated 490, bringing the total seating capacity up to 1,190.
By 1954, renovations were upgraded to the theatre, including a 46 feet wide CinemaScope screen for bigger presentations along with added features. The State Theatre did it all for 52 years, ranging from Keith Vaudeville, musical theatre and cinema. People came from every farming community and country crossroads when Vivian Leigh did her Scarlett O'Hara turn for its Eastern North Carolina premiere of “Gone With the Wind” on February 12, 1940.
The State Theatre also had road-show engagements for its East North Carolina premiere showing of “Around the World in 80 Days” on November 21, 1957. The State Theatre was equipped with CinemaScope and VistaVision. The Beatles “A Hard Days Night” had its Eastern North Carolina engagement at the State Theatre, and James Bond 007 movies played here, as well as record breaking runs of “My Fair Lady”, movies such as “Airport”, The Wild Bunch", The Sting" and “American Graffiti”. It was equipped with Sensurround for the showing of “Earthquake”.
Sadly, the State Theatre did not survive the demise of the inner-city, the closing of downtown stores, hotels and restaurants that served as a magnet for the matinee and evening crowds. The State Theatre’s last picture show came to what was Raleigh’s most beautiful cinema on September 12, 1976 under Martin Theatres. There were attempted comebacks for the State Theatre to remain open as a ‘X’ Rated cinema, a disco nightclub, and a music hall for live concerts. All of them failed. By the mid-1970’s, the State Theatre and the Ambassador Theatre over on the Fayetteville Street Mall (which closed in 1979) were the last two theatres in downtown Raleigh, leaving the city without a single downtown theatre.
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