Colonial Theater

427 North Liberty Street,
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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The Colonial Theater dates back to at least 1930. Still operating in the 1950’s. By 1961 it had been renamed Center Theater and was operated by Statesville Theatre Corp. as a second-run discount house until around 1969.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm

The Colonial Theater can be seen on the right in this 1954 photo.

Arby
Arby on April 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I think the Colonial was torn down in an orgy of urban renewal in the late 1960s and early 1970s in which whole blocks downtown disappeared to become a bus depot (across the street) and many parking decks and lots. It’s even worse now. I think that whole vibrant block in the pic posted by Lost Memory is gone now. The Colonial was definitely on the east side of Liberty Street (on the same side as the State). Also, I’m sure the Colonial was open later than 1955, at least till the mid-to-late 1960s. (If I ever find out, I will update this.)

When my father was a young man, before he was drafted for WWII, during the day he worked near the courthouse on Liberty Street. He also had evening jobs ushering at some of the downtown theaters. One was the Colonial, I think, and others were the Carolina and the Forsyth. It must have been for the extra money and for the air conditioning.

Strangely, I never saw a movie at the Colonial nor do I remember any friends going there. It just never came up. I don’t remember the Colonial having a first run of any grade A film. As I recall, the Colonial showed second runs, double features of B films and low budget or risque fare. I find it odd that in a town that size with only two dominant theaters, the Carolina and the Winston, there couldn’t have been some niche for the Colonial. I got the sense from my father that in its heyday it was a nice theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Arby is correct. The Colonial Theatre has been demolished, along with every other building on the east side of Liberty Street between 4th and 5th Streets, including the State Theatre.

This 1960 photo shows the Colonial Theatre sporting a banner under its marquee reading “4 Big Features,” so it was definitely not a first run house at that time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

The 1926 Winston-Salem city directory lists a Broadway Theatre at 429 N. Liberty Street. I wonder if this was the same house as the Colonial, or if it was demolished to make way for the Colonial? The Broadway must have been a fairly important theater, as it is advertised several times in the directory.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 11, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Here is the list of theaters in Winston-Salem in 1926:

AMUZU THEATRE, 116 w 4th

AUDITORIUM, n Liberty cor 5th

BROADWAY THEATRE, 429 n Liberty

Dunbar Theatre, n Depot cor e 6th

ELMONT THEATRE, 411 n Liberty

GEM THEATRE (The), Waughtown, S'side

Hippodrome Theatre, Kimberly Park

Lafayette Theatre, 108 e 4th

PILOT THEATRE, 111 w 4th

Rex Theatre, 104 e 4th

The FDY did sometimes duplicate a listing if a theater had changed names recently, so it’s still possible that the Colonial was the Broadway renamed. Photos from 1926 or earlier would be helpful to determine if the Colonial was in the same building as the Broadway or a new one.

Arby
Arby on August 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

The Hollywood was a different theater. I remember reading that it was in a fire about 1948 or 1949 and was not rebuilt. Somewhere online I saw a pic in which “Hollywood” remained in the sidewalk long after the theater was gone. I think the Center was a different theater on the opposite side of the street than the State (formerly Auditorium), Colonial and Hollywood. It might even have been in the next block – not sure.

Arby
Arby on September 25, 2013 at 10:34 am

The marquee of the Colonial always looked like the photo in the initial entry by Lost Memory. The Center was a different theater. I remember it having a smaller wedge marquee with lettering in a moderne-ish style. And I am pretty sure it was on the other side of Liberty Street but maybe in the next block.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Arby, did you see this photo I linked to in an earlier comment? It shows the Colonial building in late 1960, and there is an angled marquee, quite different from the one in lostmemory’s 1954 photo. It looks like the name of the theater is on the narrow front of the marquee, but for me the angle makes it unreadable, so I don’t know if it says Colonial or not. You might recognize it, though.

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