Center Theatre

427 North Liberty Street,
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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Center Theatre

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The Liberty Theatre was opened in 1912. In 1915 it was renamed Paramount Theatre, and in 1920 it became the Broadway Theatre and retained that name until at least 1926. By 1930 it had been renamed Colonial Theatre 1930. In 1940 it was operated by the Paramount-Wilby-Kincey Circuit. 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 10 comments)

Arby
Arby on April 5, 2011 at 8:00 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 1:13 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 5:43 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 6:14 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 7:47 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 7:34 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 10:18 am

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.

ThePossum
ThePossum on May 23, 2016 at 1:38 pm

The Broadway and the Hollywood were in the same building which was lost in a fire around 1950-53. The building was toward the south end of the block (on the east side) near where the Google photo is positioned. The Colonial and Center were also in the same building which was in the center of the block. That building was torn down in 1972-3 for the Liberty-Main parking structure which (unfortunately) still stands. The State Theater was a c.1919 rebuild of the 1903 Elks Auditorium which burned. It stood at the north end of the block and became State Furniture in its last years. It. too was demolished for the parking deck.

The city bus station was built on the north end of the block on the WEST side of Liberty in 1995. It replaced buildings constructed between 1883 and 1914, none of which were theaters.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 23, 2016 at 4:25 pm

ThePossum: If you check my first comment on the Cinema Treasures page for the Hollywood Theatre you’ll find links to sources that document the history of the theater at 411 N. Liberty Street as having been the Elmont Theatre from 1912 until 1927, the Ideal Theatre from 1927 to 1934, and the Hollywood Theatre from 1934 until its destruction by fire in 1948.

I still suspect that the Broadway, listed at 429 Liberty in the 1926 theater list I posted earlier, was the predecessor of the Colonial, at 427 Liberty. The only thing I haven’t been able to discover is if the Broadway was simply remodeled to become the Colonial or if it was demolished and replaced by a new building for the Colonial.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 23, 2016 at 10:59 pm

DocSouth’s “Going to the Show” lists the Liberty Theatre at the address 427-429 North Liberty from 1912 to 1915. It lists the Paramount Theatre at 429 N. Liberty from 1916 to 1919 (I’ve found the Paramount mentioned in the local newspapers in 1915.) It then lists the Broadway Theatre at 429 N. Liberty from 1920 to 1926 (there’s an ad for the Broadway, dating from early 1919, displayed on this web page.)

It seems increasingly likely that the Liberty/Paramount/Broadway Theatre was the same house that became the Colonial and finally the Center. An article about the new Liberty Theatre, then under construction, appeared in the February 25, 1911, issue of the Winston-Salem Journal. The house was to have over 900 seats, with 510 on the main floor, more than 300 in the balcony, and 100 seats in boxes. The project had been designed by a local architect, Willard Close Northup.

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