Carolina Theatre

108 E. Franklin Street,
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: ABC Theatres, Cineplex Odeon, Paramount-Wilby-Kincey Theatre Circuit

Architects: Erle G. Stillwell

Functions: Retail

Styles: Colonial Revival

Previous Names: Carolina Twin

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News About This Theater

Carolina Theatre

The Carolina Theatre originally opened October 15, 1942 with Ginger Rogers in “The Major & the Minor”. It replaced an earlier 1927 built Carolina Theatre, which became the Village Theatre. The New Carolina Theatre had 1,145 seats, while the old Carolina theatre had 850 seats.

In 1976, it was split into two screens, keeping the original lobby entrance. One screen was the ‘Blue’ auditorium, the other was named the ‘White’ auditorium. It remained that way until 1990, when it was closed. It reopened on March 19, 1993 as a single screen independently operated theatre that played arthouse features and independent films in its 280-seat auditorium. The last movie to play at the Carolina Theatre was the documentary feature “The March of the Penguins”. The theatre closed its doors for good in July 2005, and its lobby was converted into a Gap store.

Contributed by Tammy Conner, Raymond

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

raysson on May 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm

I remember seeing “E.T.” on the Blue Side,and on the White Side showed “Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan” on June 11, 1982 when the Carolina was a twin cinema with its original lobby entrance.

raysson on August 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm

The only STAR WARS film that ever played at the Carolina was THE RETURN OF THE JEDI that opened to capacity crowds on May 25, 1983.

As far as the STAR TREK movies went,only the Carolina had “STAR TREK:THE MOTION PICTURE”, “STAR TREK II:THE WRATH OF KHAN”,“STAR TREK III:THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK”. These were the only STAR TREK films that ever played here at the Carolina Theatre in Chapel Hill.

raysson on August 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm

THE NEW CAROLINA THEATRE opened on March 19,1993 as a full scale arthouse cinema with a seating capacity of 280 including handicap access sections and full gourmet concession stand that served alcoholic beverages. Owned and operated by Bruce H. Stone.

The featured attraction for the grand re-opening: -Albert Finney and Kyle McLaughlin in RICH IN LOVE -Special Late Show Friday and Saturday was SWOON


-Al Pacino in “SCENT OF A WOMAN”






raysson on August 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

Opened on October 15,1942 as the CAROLINA THEATRE under Wilby-Kincey/Paramount/North Carolina Theatres that had a seating capacity of 1,145.

It remained a single screen theatre until 1971 when the original auditorium was split into two sections seating 571 each in both auditoriums as a twin theatre keeping the original lobby entrance. It was renamed the CAROLINA BLUE AND WHITE THEATRES,aka THE CAROLINA 1 & 2 under ABC Southeastern Theatres.

Wilby-Kincey ran this theatre as a single screen cinema from 1942 until 1971.

ABC Southeastern Theatres took over the operations from 1971 until 1978.

Plitt Southern Theatres operated it from 1978 to 1987.

Cineplex Odeon was the last theatre chain that operated the Carolina from 1987 until 1990,and it was Cineplex Odeon that closed the original CAROLINA THEATRE in 1990.

By March 19,1993,the CAROLINA THEATRE reopened to the public and all of Chapel Hill as a full scale arthouse cinema that specialized in showing first-run releases as well as independent and foreign films as well as documentaries. Where the original entrance was facing Franklin Street the new entrance was toward the side of Columbia Street(right next door to the Ackland Art Museum). It was renamed as the NEW CAROLINA THEATRE where it was a single screener with a seating capacity of 280. Special features included in this new cinema were access handicap seating as well as full scale gourmet concession stand that also served alcoholic beverages. The new auditorium had a prominent position where the original marquee was placed below the front of the screen. The owner who refurnished the NEW CAROLINA THEATRE was Bruce H. Stone who also operated the Chelsea Theatre at Timberlyne Shopping Center(located in the Northern section of the city). THE NEW CAROLINA THEATRE remained a showplace for great films until it’s closing on July 2,2005. The last picture show that played here to great fanfare and capacity crowds was the Oscar winning documentary “March of the Penguins” narrated by Morgan Freeman.

raysson on August 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

Correct: “STAR WARS” did played here as a re-release on July 21,1978 when it was the CAROLINA 1 & 2.

Also played here:














raysson on August 28, 2013 at 11:55 am

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA played here at the CAROLINA as a general release on April 2,1964.

raysson on August 29, 2013 at 7:02 am

For more about this theatre’s history please go to this site for further information. The address site is:

During the 1950’s and continuing into the early-to-mid 1960’s,the CAROLINA THEATRE on East Franklin Street in Downtown Chapel Hill became the subject of numerous protests and boycott demonstrations regarding this theatre’s segregation policies of not admitting people of color. This theatre was heavily picketed and boycotted when it refused to let African-Americans enter during the showing of “Black Orpheus” on August 18,1960. The sit-ins continue outside the main entrance of the theatre and was picketed until the film ended its weekly run on August 25,1960. Regarding the status of its policies numerous protests continued. Another film that really brought it to national and local attention regarding its segregation policies of not admitting black patrons continued when protests and numerous sit-ins outside the main entrance of the theatre as well as demonstrations when the CAROLINA THEATRE showed the film “Porgy and Bess” starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge that played for a week running from January 2,1961 until January 9,1961. Numerous protests and sit-in demonstrations continue outside the main entrance of the theatre became front page news in the January 9,1961 edition of the Chapel Hill News with the main front heading titled:


This theatre was still picketed during the course of the film’s run in the town along with the other segregated cinema,THE VARSITY which was basically across the street and other Chapel Hill establishments that were fully segregated. It wasn’t until March of 1962 that a federal court order the CAROLINA and the VARSITY to integrated along with other businesses within the town. The CAROLINA on January 10,1961 replaced “Porgy and Bess” with another feature starring Sophia Loren in “A Breath of Scandal”,but still the theatre was still picketed and sit-ins outside the main entrance of the theatre continued. By,1963 the theatre was integrated due to a federal court’s desegregation order of all major businesses within the town of Chapel Hill.

raysson on February 7, 2014 at 12:19 pm

THE NEW CAROLINA THEATRE opened on October 15,1942 as Chapel Hill’s newest and most modern design theatre with a seating capacity of 1,145.

NOW SHOWING at Chapel Hill’s NEW CAROLINA THEATRE: It’s Ginger Rogers along with Ray Milland in “THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR”

The coming attractions……. The Big TECHNICOLOR musical event of 1942 “SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES” Starring Betty Grable

“MY SISTER EILEEN” with Rosalind Russell & Brian Ahern

“THE GLASS KEY” with Veronica Lake & Brian Donlevy

“WAKE OF THE RED WITCH” with John Wayne

raysond5366 on April 23, 2023 at 10:03 pm

CORRECTION: The Carolina Theatre was still a single screen theatre in 1971. The information is incorrect here, It was twinned in 1976 under ABC Southeastern Theatres and renamed the Carolina Blue and White Theatres aka The Carolina Twin where it remained until its closing in 1990 which was under Cineplex Odeon/Plitt Southern Theatres.

It became a one screen independent theatre in 1993 as the CAROLINA THEATRE until it closed for good in 2005.

tarheelinva on July 26, 2023 at 6:26 pm

I was a projectionist at the Carolina Theatre for 3+ years in the 1960’s, including the World Premiere of “Joy in the Morning” complete with klieg lights and movie stars! Carrington Smith was the manager then, a stogie pipe smoking man with rigid rules for decorum in those days. Their projection booth was pretty state of the art for those times, huge auditorium (~1200 seats). I got the job at age 15 when one of their career projectionists fell ill and never returned to work. Projection booth was complete with it’s own toilet and a leather recliner.

I also worked at the Varsity as my first job, age 13, as marquee boy - changing the marquee every night at around 9:30pm. Back then movies were often only one day runs, first runs might be 3-5 day runs but Chapel Hill never got first runs until the movie had been running in larger cities for weeks. The marquee room was next to the projection booth off the men’s bathroom and I would hang out there with the projectionist before changes - he taught me how to make changeovers (we used only 18" reels) splice film, etc. He got arrested for breaking into Jeff’s Confectionary and the manager, Andy Gutierrez asked me if I knew how to operate the equipment - I said yes and got the job at age 14 (things were much different in those days) - operating carbon arc lamps and serious amperages. It was good money as the projectionist got paid about the same as the manager did and I often made more money in a week than my mom did, working as a full time editor for the CH News. I had basic knowledge as I had worked as the AV guy at Philips Junior High.

Joined the Coast Guard in 1967 and was stationed in DC, where I worked for the projectionist union as a relief projectionist in just about every theatre in DC and Northern VA.

Sad to see the Carolina go - it was owned by Paramount back then and was a much nicer theatre than the Varsity, which was independently owned by a company in Charlotte.

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