310 S. Greene Street,
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The Carolina Theatre in Greensboro was built for Saenger-Publix and opened on October 31, 1927. At the time it was the largest theater in the state with seating for 2,200. It was also one of their most expensive to build, costing over half a million dollars. Saenger advertised the new movie palace as “The Showplace of the Carolinas”.
It was designed by architect James M. Workman in a Greek Revival style for the exterior, and inside an Italian Renaissance style. The striking facade resembled an ancient Greek temple, complete with Ionic columns supporting a pediment. The terra-cotta decorating the facade was polychrome, in brilliant colors.
The walls of the lobbies, foyers and halls were faced in sandstone, while the floors with inlaid multi-colored marble tiles. In the main lobby, the ceiling was painted to resemble a twilight sky, in shades of blue and pink. The mezzanine and lounge areas featured travertine marble on their walls, as well as rows of dark green marble Corinthian columns, capped with gilded capitols. The lounges featured a women’s powder room and men’s smoking room, all as luxurious as in any major city’s movie palace of the era, with attendants, plush chairs and sofas and golden fixtures.
The auditorium, decorated in Italian Renaissance and neoclassical flourishes, could seat over 1,300 on the orchestra floor, and another 900 in the balconies. On the side walls, rows of Corinthian columns and Roman statuary stretched from the balconies in the rear to the towering proscenium arch, dramatically lit, and sparkling with gilding. The auditorium ceiling featured an oval shaped dome, from which hung a massive European crystal chandelier.
The ornately decorated proscenium arch featured a mural by Herman Herschauer of rows of dancing maidens. Rising 90 feet high, and 35 deep, the Carolina’s stage was one of the largest in the South when it opened, able to accommodate the most elaborate of stage revues or vaudeville acts (which were both a staple in its early years, along with the occasional opera or circus, in addition to movies.)
After falling into disrepair and decline after Saenger gave up the Carolina, the theater was fortunately spectacularly restored to nearly its original condition by its current owners, the United Arts Council of Greensboro, giving present-day movie palace fans a chance to experience what it was like to see a motion picture on a huge silver screen, and live acts on its stage, amidst the opulent 20s decor.
The Carolina was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, along with a large portion of downtown Greensboro.
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