Built in April to September 1927, it was constructed for property owner William B. Sorrell
by local contractor Charles Martindale (Jo Fernandez was the "decorator"). It opened the night of September 22, 1927.
In addition to the theater, the building housed Jeff Thomas's Jeff's Campus Confectionary
(in the right side), W. B. Sorrell's Optometry
and jewelry (left side); the upstairs were apartments.
1928-29 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
1927-28 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
The ticket box, 1929 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
1929 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
1932 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
1939 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
1942 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
Circa 1949 photo (via UNC)
With the opening of the "new" Carolina Theatre in October 1942 (built near the south east corner of Franklin and Columbia streets), this original Carolina Theatre was renamed the Village Theater. Under new ownership and management, in May 1951 it was renamed the Varsity Theatre.
In 1960-61, Civil Rights protestors picketed the theater (part of the group was called "Citizens for Open Movies"). In November 1961, the theater allowed black UNC students ("with valid identification") to attend. By February 1962 the theater implemented full desegregation.
The theater was remodeled in early 1966, with a 500-seat capacity. There was a fire in the building on November 16, 1966, which gutted the theater, the other businesses (Jeff's and City Optical), and apartments. Luckily, nobody was killed or injured due to the fire.
1966, after the fire
Exterior of Jeff's, 1967 (via UNC's Yackety Yack)
1986 (photo via cinematreasures.org)
The Varsity Theatre was to close on May 29, 2009, but it was postponed to June 4, 2009. It did, however, reopen in November 2009.
Pre-opening ad, September 1927
First print ad, September 1927
The building's 1967 plaque (photo via the CHHS)