Ultravision Theatres 1 & 2

1812 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard,
Charleston, SC 29407

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KyleK
KyleK on October 11, 2014 at 8:52 pm

As stated in the caption the theatre was at least open until December of. 1994 because I saw the Santa Claus there with Tim Allen. In fourth grade, March of 1997 I saw Return of the Jedi the special edition for my birthday. I remember the Boba Fett static clings on the box office windows.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Shellimcgeheegray: Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry it took so long for me to respond, but when this site was relaunched a couple of years ago all of our subscriptions to individual theater pages were canceled, so we no longer got notifications of new comments until we re-subscribed, and this is the first time I’ve been back to this page since then.

Another Cinema Treasures member found another Boxoffice article about the UltraVision Theatre in Charleston, and on this page of it there is a photo of five of the people involved in the project, including your Grandfather. The scan is a bit blurry, but I thought you would enjoy seeing it, if you haven’t already. And, perhaps for the only time, the magazine spelled your family’s name correctly in the caption.

Fans of Cinema Treasures are always glad to hear anything about the architects who designed the marvelous theaters we admire. Although I’ve never visited any of the regions where the theaters your Grandfather designed are located, I’ve been impressed by the photos I’ve seen of them, and the reports of other Cinema Treasures members who remember attending them.

Shellimcgeheegray
Shellimcgeheegray on January 31, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Joe Vogel, I know it has been many years since you made the below comment, but my Grandfather was William Bringhurst McGehee of Six Associates in Asheville, NC. People have misspelled our name forever! I stumbled upon this site while doing a search of my family on the Internet. He was a wonderful man, a brilliant architect and I miss him dearly. How delightful to know the history behind another of his designs. Your post has brought both a smile and a tear to me tonight.

JoeMeyers
JoeMeyers on November 29, 2012 at 9:41 am

I worked at the UltraVision from 92-94 and it did have four screens (the two that were split from the original auditorium and then two smaller auditoriums were added to the back of the building at some point). I quit when I moved away but oddly enough came back to the area in the late 90s and started working at the credit union that was across Sam Rittenberg Blvd. from the theater in the early 00’s. A former coworker and I heard rumblings about it’s closing, called the manager at the time and we were allowed to come back for a visit, see the booth one last time, etc. I was still working at the credit union across the street the day they started demolishing the theater and stood in the lobby watching her go for the longest time.

Bevo
Bevo on July 29, 2012 at 6:40 am

Ronny, contact me at .

Bev Hall

Bevo
Bevo on July 29, 2012 at 5:52 am

Ron: I enjoyed working with you during the “good ole days” too. Had some greaat times back then. I don’t do facebook, but, if you do, there’s a Remembering Plitt Theatres page that you may be able to find some former Wilby-Kincey/ABC managers, and we can get together???

ronnyriddle
ronnyriddle on July 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Bevo, I enjoyed working with you at the Richland Mall and Ultravision. The Wil-Kin folks were some of the best I have known. Perhaps someone wil get a reunion together someday.

Bevo
Bevo on July 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

Tinseltoes……As with the Cardinal-Raleigh, thanks for the Boxoffice link re the Ultravision-Charleston. I had not read this in the magazine. I took over management of the Ultravision in April, 1970 after a 2 year stint at the Richland Mall-Columbia, and can assure you that this presentation of films (especially 70MM)is absolutely the finest I have ever experienced.

MrZilla
MrZilla on February 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Besides Charleston, I remember specifically that there was one in Mt. Pleasant that originally was a single screen theatre. I watched movies there before it was split into two screens. That was up until 1979 & 80 and at that point it had not yet been split into two screens. Therefore, it was split sometime after that before it was later closed but I do know that in 81 it was still single screen that year.

scottdavis
scottdavis on November 11, 2011 at 10:55 am

Yes, the Ultravision was a Carmike cinema before it closed. I thought it had 3 screens (one of the two original large cinemas being divided into two), but I don’t remember. Perhaps they divided both original cinemas.

NightHawk1
NightHawk1 on November 11, 2011 at 7:42 am

I remember seeing an ad for a “Carmike Ultravision” four-screen theatre in the Charleston newspaper in the early 1990s. Could this be the same theatre?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Manager Willie Freeman had the Dream of every theatre man, AWORLD PREMEIRE of “THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE” The movie was filmed around Charleston. Gibbs Art Galery is getting the money at 25.00 a ticket.

scottdavis
scottdavis on February 7, 2010 at 6:43 pm

The Ultravision in Charleston lasted quite a long time. I believe it was the early 2000’s when it was demolished. I remember it quite well, sitting on top of a hill at the front of the Westwood Plaza shopping center parking lot at Sam Rittenberg Boulevard & Ashley River Road (SC Hwys 7 & 61). When it originally opened, this shopping center was known as “Grant City West” as it was anchored by a large W.T. Grant Department Store (a.k.a “Grant’s”).

Even with the Ashley Plaza Cinema just a few miles down Hwy. 7 in one direction and the Citadel Mall Cinema 6 opening in 1981 just a few miles down Hwy. 7 in the other direction, the Ultravision remained popular right up until the day it closed.

I believe that the only thing that doomed the Ultravision were financial troubles at its parent. This location never seemed to be without business. When it closed, it was demolished and the hill that it sat on was leveled, making room for an additional wing to be added to the adjacent shopping center.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 5, 2009 at 10:03 am

GASTON MALL THEATRE a ABC THEATRE was also a ULTRA-VISION theatre it is listed on CT.Gastonia,N.C. .

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 1, 2009 at 1:47 am

This prototype of the UltraVision theaters (that is the way it was spelled in an ad for the projection system’s developers, Wil-Kin Inc., in the September 29, 1969, issue of Boxoffice) opened in September, 1969. A small photo appeared in Boxoffice’s issue of September 15.

Various issues of the magazine say that the house was designed by Wil-Kin, a division of the Paramount-ABC affiliate Wilby-Kincey chain of theaters. In fact, the company did hire an architect who worked very closely with the developers of the innovative projection system to make sure the UltraVision Theatre would have the optimum form to show the system to full advantage.

Two Boxoffice items give the name of the architect, but with different spellings, both of which turn out to be wrong. The November 2, 1970, issue, in an item about the opening of two more UltraVision houses, says that the Charleston theater, on which their designs were based, was designed by Bill McGhee, but a September 8, 1969 item gave his name as William McGee.

Correcting the errors in Boxoffice, the AIA’s Historical Directory of American Architects lists a William Bringhurst McGehee as a member of the Asheville, N.C., firm Six Associates. A 1972 Boxoffice item notes a William B. McGee of Six Associates as having done preliminary work on the twinning of the Carolina Theatre at Hendersonville, North Carolina.

I think we can safely identify the lead architect of the UltraVision Theatre as William B. McGehee, of the firm Six Associates. His listing in the 1970 AIA Directory also lists the Phipps Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, another Wilby-Kincey house with UltraVision equipment, among his works.

The architect(s) who adapted McGehee’s original design for the later UltraVision theaters might also have worked at Six Associates, but I haven’t yet been able to confirm that.

On the subject of the UltraVision projection system itself, projectionists in particular will probably be interested in this October, 1991, Boxoffice article commemorating the 25th anniversary of this innovative development. The article mentions that UltraVision equipment was eventually installed in 60 theaters.

sporridge
sporridge on June 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Everyone, especially REndres, many thanks for the Ultravision background — these details have been scarce! The Deerfield Ultravision appears to have just adopted the name, round auditorium, and widescreen concept; they were never equipped for 70MM, and stereo wasn’t installed until 1980 (in one auditorium, certainly made the viewing experience more remarkable).

bufffilmbuff
bufffilmbuff on June 17, 2009 at 9:20 am

These were nice theatres. There were Ultravision theatres in Va Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News, Virginia and opened in the early ‘70s. I don’t think any of these had 70mm capacity, but they were impressive. Unfortunately the kind of spectacular films that would showcase the big screen were fairly rare in that era and as the theatres got older and changed hands less care was taken with lamphouses, so the image tended to be somewhat dim. The final blow was the attempt to split the theatres. Since the auditoriums were round the split was handled awkwardly and instead of re-arranging the seating, they just left it was it was, meaning the seats did not directly face the screen… I am sure plenty of patrons got sore necks.

Coate
Coate on June 17, 2009 at 9:17 am

Ultravision was one of the theaters that played “Brainstorm” (1983) during its exclusive 70mm release.

Here’s a link to a related article I whipped up last year. The Charleston and Ultravision Theater reference appears about ¾ the way through the article.

RobertEndres
RobertEndres on June 17, 2009 at 9:09 am

The Ultravision Theatres were developed for the Wilby-Kincey (sp?) circuit. Glen Berggren who later was to work for the Schneider Optical company among others was deeply involved in the engineering of the projection system which was unique at the time. In the days when these theatres were developed 35 and 70mm film projection was still largely done with 2,000' reels, since originally carbon arc lamps were stil predominant. This meant a “keystone” in the projected image since two projectors were used and both couldn’t be on the screen center line. Ultravision used an image “multiplexer” with both projectors pointed directly at each other parallel with the screen. They projected the image into mirrors so that both projectors put out just one image that was centered on the screen. In addition, all of the projection elements were carefully matched, from the mirrors in the lamphouses to the lenses, and the gate and traps in the projectors were carefully adjusted. This along with a curved screen that preserved the focus across its surface gave a picture significantly sharper than most of the theatres in those days. The use of xenon lamps further improved the image. (These days of course, the use of platters and just one projector in the booth per screen has eliminated the need for the multiplexer.)

The theatres were equipped for either 4 or 6 track magnetic sound from 35 or 70mm. prints. One of the interesting stories Glen told was that when one of the theatres opened (possibly this one), the first three or four pictures happened to have stereophonic tracks which had become a relative rarity for 35mm by that time. No one in the audiences commented on the superior sound, which must have been a disappointment. However, when the first optical/mono picture played a number of audience members complained to the manager, “What happened to your sound? It used to be so good!”

One of the two ABC/Plitt theatres in Century City in Los Angeles was also equipped for Ultravision as well as the W-K theatres in the South.

ronnyriddle
ronnyriddle on June 17, 2009 at 5:13 am

I had the pleasure of working as a manager at the Ultravision Theatre, Charleston, SC up to the point of its twinning. This was a great theatre with it’s huge curved screen and true stereo sound. The auditorium was round as was the glass enclosed lobby and the concession stand. The projection was 70MM capable with Xenon lighting, an advancement from the older arc lights. It was a real pleasure to work there.

raysson
raysson on March 8, 2009 at 12:45 pm

The Charleston Ultravision opened somewhere between 1966 or 1967.
It operated as a single screen theatre that had the round auditorium that incredibly huge with the largest widescreen anywhere which was a first for Charleston,and the public loved it. It remained a single screen cinema until the mid-1970’s or early 1980’s when this beautifully designed round auditorium was split in two making it a twin cinema.

sporridge
sporridge on March 7, 2009 at 8:43 pm

This is a surprise: ABC (under the Florida State banner) operated another Ultravision Twin in Deerfield Beach FL (between Ft. Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches) from 1970 to 1985. It’s also listed here at Cinema Treasures. Raymond, was the Charleston location a round auditorium, or more square (since later twinning was mentioned)?

At least one other ABC venue, the Dolphin in Palm Springs FL, initially promoted “Ultravision” screen technology. Could this have been ABC’s response to UA’s Cine 150 style of the late 60s?