State Theatre

320 South Salisbury Street,
Raleigh, NC 27601

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State Theatre

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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.

Contributed by Patsy, Lost Memory, Raymond

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

raysson
raysson on November 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

“MY FAIR LADY” played here at the State as a first-run Triangle exclusive on June 3,1966. It was not a reserved seat engagement.

raysson
raysson on November 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

This theatre got a lot of the United Artists product… The James Bond films ranging from “Dr. No” all the way to “Diamonds Are Forever” got first-run billing at the State Theatre.

Also played here first-run in 1964 were “A HARD DAYS NIGHT” starring The Beatles to sold out audiences.

“The Pink Panther” and its sequel “A Shot In The Dark” also played at the State Theatre first-run.

tory
tory on December 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Hey I worked at the State Theatre in 1964 when “My Fair lady” was playing. Who was the manager/owner then?

raysson
raysson on December 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm

tory and chuck1231: FOR YOUR INFORMATION……….. The release of MY FAIR LADY didn’t come to Raleigh until June 3,1966 as a general release even though it was originally released in larger cities first on October 21,1964 in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as a reserved seat engagement.

Charlotte’s Capri Theatre was the only showing of the film in the state that got the exclusive reserved seat engagement on January 28,1965…MY FAIR LADY when it came to Charlotte was the only theatre in the state that played it for a year. It was the only roadshow attraction in the Carolinas(full entrance music with intermission and exit music)……

Durham’s Center Theatre was also a reserved seat engagement for it’s Eastern North Carolina premiere on January 14,1966…MY FAIR LADY when it came to Durham’s Center Theatre in early-1966 was also a roadshow attraction (complete with full entrance music,intermission and exit music)………

Other cities like Asheville and Greensboro and even cities like Fayetteville and Raleigh got the general release of MY FAIR LADY….Durham and Charlotte were the roadshow engagements. I have the original ads for this if you need to see them via e-mail at

I don’t know who was the manager of the State Theatre in Raleigh when MY FAIR LADY played during its general release in the summer of 1966,but I do know that the film was a huge hit when it finally came out in the Capital City of Raleigh.

raysson
raysson on December 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm

From the June 3,1966 ad from the Raleigh News and Observer…..on the showing of MY FAIR LADY at the State Theatre…. “DIRECT FROM IT’S EXCLUSIVE ROADSHOW ENGAGEMENT! FINALLY, RALEIGH CAN SEE "MY FAIR LADY” AT POPULAR PRICES AT THE STATE THEATRE…."

raysson
raysson on January 30, 2014 at 9:37 am

Opened on January 15,1924.

Closed on September 12,1976 under Martin Theatres.

Cinemascope projection was installed in 1954 when the State Theatre was remodeled with new features and updated Stereosound system.

The State Theatre was one of two theatres in the state of North Carolina to be equipped with SENSURROUND sound systems for its December 21,1974 opening of the film “Earthquake!”

raysson
raysson on January 30, 2014 at 9:43 am

This theatre got a lot of the United Artists product with such films as “A Hard Days Night”,and “The Pink Panther”,not to mention the Bond films ranging from “Dr. No” to “Diamonds Are Forever” got first-run billing.

This theatre got a lot of the Universal product too. It’s run of “Airport” brought in record crowds,along with “The Sting”,and “American Graffiti” not to mention its showing of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and a lot of the “B” movie stuff too for Raleigh’s State Theatre.

raysson
raysson on February 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Also to point out that the STATE THEATRE got a lot of the Warner Bros. product as well showing classic films as “My Fair Lady”, “The Wild Bunch”,not to mention brought in record crowds for its showing of the 1972 thriller “Deliverance”.

raysson
raysson on March 6, 2014 at 10:08 am

THE LION IN WINTER was one of two reserved seat engagement showings that made its Eastern North Carolina premiere at the State Theatre in Raleigh on April 12,1969. The other reserved seat engagement of THE LION IN WINTER was at Charlotte’s Capri Theatre on February 16,1969. These were the only two theatres in the state that presented it as roadshows. Other cities in North Carolina didn’t release it until the summer of 1969 as a general release.

raysson
raysson on June 27, 2014 at 9:44 am

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT played here first-run at Raleigh’s State Theatre on August 16,1964.

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