Plaza Theater

1610 Central Avenue,
Charlotte, NC 28205

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By the early-1940s “street car stops” were common in Charlotte. They were found in suburban areas across the city at the end of a line or at a major turn. Such a turn occurred at Central Avenue and a street named the Plaza. Many of the buildings at this “turn”, including an elementary school and the Plaza Theater, were designed by architect M. R. Marsh, of Hawkins-Kibler Associates. The trolly service ended in 1938 but the business district continued to grow for another 15 years.

The Plaza Theater opened in 1941 with “Alice Faye in "That Night in Rio”. Alton B. Carver listed as its manager. In 1956 the first shopping center opened in Charlotte. Shopping centers offered lots of auto parking, and the pedestrian “street car strips” began to decline. The Plaza Theater was a lovely neighborhood theater, but by the 1960’s it was a second run discount movie house. In the early-1970’s it became the Plaza Pussycat and ran x-rated movies. Then it closed. The neighborhood continued to decline.

The Plaza/Midwood neighborhood has made a come back, but it was too late for the old movie house, which was destroyed.

Contributed by Robby from Charlotte

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

RobbyfromCharlotte
RobbyfromCharlotte on December 7, 2004 at 9:08 am

Three photos of the Plaza Theater, one from 1940 and two from the 1980s, are found in the book “Plaza-Midwood Neighborhood of Charlotte” by Jeff Byers. This book is published by Arcadia and has many old photos of this wonderful and diverse neighborhood. Most bookstores in Charlotte have it in stock. The photos of the old theater show it to be a great example of art deco design. Some of architect M.R. Marsh’s other buildings are still around.

Patsy
Patsy on December 7, 2004 at 1:20 pm

Robby: Thanks for the additional Plaza Theatre information. Just wondered also if you have followed the Charlotte Carolina Theatre saga? I am a fairly new resident, but have alot of concern over the future of this theatre in ruins. It must be restored for future generations! If you go to the site about this threatre you’ll read my comments and those of many others which you might find interesting. There are a couple of organizations that have been working for over 10 years on restoring the Carolina….Metrolina Theatre Organ Society (www.mtos.org) and Carolina Theatre Preservation Society founded by Charlie Clayton (charlie c).

Patsy
Patsy on January 31, 2005 at 10:09 am

Robby: Do you have interest in seeing the Carolina Theatre saved since you are a Charlotte resident?

jce13
jce13 on October 10, 2005 at 5:11 pm

The Plaza Theatre was part of the Charlotte, North Carolina based Consolidated Theatres chain. The Plaza had a great location at the intersection of The Plaza and Central Avenue, just off the very busy Independence Blvd. Except for an unusual scalloped marquee, the Plaza was a plain, undecorated neighborhood theatre, yet it was clean and well managed. The Plaza usually opened around 1 PM everyday with continuous showings until around 11 PM.

Even as a neighborhood theatre, the Plaza showed first run films. I think one of the Plaza’s most successful runs was with THE GRADUATE during the 1967-1968 Christmas holiday season. There were extremely long lines for weeks. I saw several films at the Plaza.

The Plaza continued to show first run films into the very early 1970’s. By the early 1970’s, the Plaza did/could not book major releases. The ultra modern Capri had opened in 1964 on Independence Blvd. General Cinema opened the Eastland Mall 3 further down Central Avenue, and the Regency Twin opened in 1973. Faced with more modern competition and changing demographics, Plaza bookings became less desirable grade-B type movies. A 1971 booking was “Preacherman” â€" typical for the Plaza during the early 1970’s.

I believe the Plaza switched abruptly to X-rated/porno films in 1975. I remember seeing the movie ads in the Charlotte Observer when the Plaza switched. I believe their first porno booking was “A Dirty Western”. The Plaza soon called itself the Plaza Pussycat. I do not know how long Consolidated Theatres remained associated with the Plaza. Consolidated also operated the Cameo in Rocky Mount, NC, which switched to porno about this same time. The Plaza Pussycat opened at 10 AM. It operated as Charlotte’s premier adult movie house for about a decade.

After the porno era ended, the Plaza was not quite finished. North Carolina based American Multi-Cinema began operating the Plaza as a discount (99 cents) house for a short period. This last venture for the Plaza was short-lived. Eventually, the Plaza was demolished, and a bank was built on the Plaza site.

MHF
MHF on April 24, 2006 at 8:02 am

In the 50’s and up to the mid-60’s, the Plaza Theater was where you went to see the first run engagements of MGM movies.
BEN-HUR had its first Charlotte showing there in 1960.

— MHF

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

That HAVCO INTERNATIONAL PICTURES recently screened “THE BOOTLEGGERS” at the PLAZA. It was showned to a private audience mainly of bookers. And a film like “THE BOOTLEGGERS” should do great in that area. {Boxoffice March 4 1974}

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I need that big book that you have of all the movie theatre info you have Mike.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Tisloews,All i did and you could have done it was save every old BOXOFFICE magazine i would find at work and exploring old theatres. The owner of the KNOX THEATRE passed away .I reprinted a small part of his obit.

DannyHall
DannyHall on September 9, 2012 at 10:01 pm

THe last operator was “American Mini Cinemas Grier Haddon, manager. Grier operated the Plaza as a porn theater for a while. The answering machine had the hilarious message for the managers line"This is you know who, and Im you know where doing you know what , with you know who, so you know what to do” or something like that.

Grier ran a small store front theater in Dilworth that showed porn, and regular movies. It had vending machines for a concession stand.When it closed, he went to Florida, bought some kind of a franchise deal where he showed midnight movies onsite at apartment complexes. He was from the Haddon Brick Company family in Charlotte. His 85 year old father used to sit in the concession stand and sometimes sell tickets. He wore an expensive suit sometimes.

Grier also ran the Trans Lux Theater in Kannapolis as a dollar theater for a little while, after Entertainment World closed it. ( see trans lux inflight theater)

He kept monkees in a cage behind the Plaza for several years.

raysson
raysson on March 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

“BEN-HUR” was a reserved seat engagement in North Carolina in 1960.

“OLIVER!” also played here as a reserved seat engagement at the Plaza in early,1969. It was the only showing of the film in the two Carolinas with two showings within performances.

I’m thinking that this was the movie that took over after THE GRADUATE with Dustin Hoffman played for weeks throughout Christmas of 1967 till mid-1968 or early 1969.

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