Charles Theatre

2217 Atlantic Avenue,
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

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The Charles Theatre - Last Day

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Located between Missiouri Avenue and Mississippi Avenue on Atlantic Avenue in Alantic City. The old Surf Theatre was badly damaged in a fire on November 22, 1963 (Yes, same day of the JFK assassination). Charles Tannambaum re-built it and opened in 1964 and renamed it the Charles Theatre. It was very modern with drop ceiling, wall drapes, large lobby and an art gallery with complimentery expresso bar and color TV! I think the theatre seated around 600. The booth had a pair of Simplex E-7 projectors and Peerless Magnarc carbon lamps retrieved from the fire. RCA tube sound was used.

In 1976 Tannambaum was excited about casino gambling coming to Atlantic City. He said that we would be able to run continuious instead of nightly. Two years later the theatre was torn down and became a Kinney parking lot. Tannambaum (who was a co-owner of the Tilton Twin in Northfield) took an upper eschelon managment job with Ceasars World Casino-Hotel.

Contributed by Crazy Bob

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

michaeljayklein on November 15, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Mr. Tannenbaum was a friend of my dad’s when I was growing up and he kindly let me see every movie at the Charles for free! What a nice guy! My most memorable “Charles” moment was seeing “Halloween” when it first came out. I’d go to the Charles to see any movie playing there and had no idea I’d get the heebie-jeebies scared out of me when I saw that movie! Sorry to hear it is no longer there. I moved from Atlantic City in 1984.

edblank on May 20, 2008 at 10:21 am

Does anyone remember which distributor fed films to this theater when it was the Surf? – Ed Blank

kencmcintyre on October 18, 2008 at 9:19 pm

From the Hartford Cuurant, 11/22/63:

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (UPI) — The second major fire here this week destroyed the Surf Theater Thursday and routed 12 persons from apartments on upper floors. The movie house is about a mile and a half from the Surfside Hotel.

CWorkman on September 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

My first movie, shot in Atlantic City and called The Money, premiered at The Charles. Charles Tannenbaum was a family friend and actually did us a favor, as the film was a tiny independent movie and hardly played anywhere theatrically. On the night of the “gala” opening, a few people showed up, including my parents who lived nearby. Since my stepfather was a local celebrity, the Atlantic City Press wrote about the premiere and said that the family would all be there. This information proved useful to some and my parents' house was robbed when they were at the movie.
I went often to the Charles, and also to other theaters owned by Charles, and I think a lot of how I feel about movies came from the offbeat films I saw there, and at the Astor and some of the other smaller AC theaters. Charles loved exhibition and told me he often would stop in to one of his theaters, like the Tilton, when he was a successful casino executive, and just hang out, take tickets, and smell the popcorn.
Years later I thought about buying the Margate (the Ventnor was too expensive) but never got very far with that. I watched so many movies in AC as I grew up, mostly at the Ventnor and Margate, but in uptown Atlantic City too as I got older, and so many of the films I used to use in movie montages I probably first saw on some rainy summer day at an Atlantic City theater.
The Money is out on dvd, probably available on Amazon, now called by the distributor Atlantic City Jackpot. The biggest star in it was Danny DeVito, who had three lines, but of course they put his picture on the box.

kencmcintyre on September 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm

This article from the Uniontown (PA) Evening Standard is dated 11/21/63, the day before the Kennedy assassination:

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) â€"A general alarm fire broke out early today in a movie theater about 13 blocks south of Monday’s disastrous hotel fire in this resort city. The movie house, the Surf
Theater, was closed for the night and empty when an alarm sounded at 1:23 a.m. Ten residents of apartments above the two-story, stucco theater escaped from the building without injury, firemen said.

The flames, believed to have started in the projection room, were brought under control within a few hours. Fire Chief Warren Conover estimated damage at $50,000. The theater, on Atlantic Avenue, is a block from Convention Hall. Today’s general alarmer came less than 72 hours after the Surfside Hotel disaster that so far has claimed 12 known dead, with 13 more missing and 10 buildings destroyed.

brooklynfilm on December 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

I used to date the niece of the manager from the Tilton Theatre in Northfield, NJ and Charles (co-owned the Tilton) would let us sit in the closed balcony during the weeknights. Sweet.

brooklynfilm on December 31, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I think I may still have a 35mm trailer for ‘The Money’ in storage… small world.

jillperry on March 20, 2014 at 9:44 pm

The Charles Theater was owned by Charles Tannenbaum but run and operated by George Perry and Perry Management. It was a venue for many movie premieres as the casinos came revitalized Atlantic City. A movie premiere I recall it hosting was “Sammy Stops the World” with Sammy Davis Jr, which was about his life, and he and his buddies attended the opening with a gala at Caesars following it. This was the first of premieres I was allowed to finally attend being old enough. The Charles had a beautiful balcony and stayed up to the times as best as it could. It was the first theater at the time in the area to have the big sub wolfer speakers when the came out for Battle Star Gallactica. It was eventually sold to the casinos and became a parking lot.

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