MOVIE THEATERS

MOVIE THEATERS


Movie theaters, theatres, picture shows, etc.
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Pickwick, 1909

PICKWICK THEATRE (FIRST LOCATION)

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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
circa 1905
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  • Fri, 07/03/2020 - 11:16am by SteveR

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128
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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
circa 1905
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The Pickwick Theatre was Orange County's first movie theater, and was located on East Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. It began operation in 1909, and was owned by Samuel J. Brockwell. 
 
"The Pick" offered motion pictures and/or live music and also "illustrated songs" during its early years. The movies shown were silent films (until 1930), and an organ was played to accompany the film. Mable Hill was the theater's organ player; she began working at the theater while a high school student, playing music that "would coincide with the visual imagery presented on screen." After several years of playing solo, an orchestra accompanied her during shows or played alternate shows. In a 1953 interview with the Chapel Hill Herald, Hill said the theater "was always full on weekends ... Never a seat in the place. There were constant yells, flying peanuts and ribald comments on the picture from the students.” She also said that "if the films were in any way disappointing, shouts of derision notified the manager." Former UNC student (class of 1922) George Watts Hill, during a 1986 interview, had similar things to say: "The Pickwick Theater was [on Franklin Street] and you had to be careful, you had to sit in the back of it because if you sat even three rows down somebody'd hit you with raw peanuts on the back of the head." 
 
Pickwick, 1909
The Pickwick Theatre, circa 1909 (image courtesy UNC)
 
 
"5 cent Theatre," 1911 (Sanborn map excerpt)

Circa 1912, the Pickwick Theatre moved next door (to the west, now 103 Franklin Street) into the Brockwell Building, as Brockwell owned both these properties at the time.

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Pickwick Theatre, 1915 (Sanborn map excerpt)

PICKWICK THEATRE (SECOND LOCATION)

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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Last updated

  • Fri, 07/03/2020 - 11:16am by SteveR

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103
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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Circa 1912, the Pickwick Theatre moved to its second location, into the Brockwell Building. Samuel Brockwell owned both this building and the previous theater building, and they weren't sold until many years after his death by his widow. 
 
Pickwick Theatre, 1915 (Sanborn map excerpt)
December 1915 Sanborn map excerpt, showing second location of the theater ("Picture Show")
 
Interior, circa 1912
 
The theater also outgrew this second location, and Brockwell purchased a lot across the street in October 1915, with plans to move to the theater into a new building to be built on the lot.
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PICKWICK THEATRE (THIRD LOCATION)

128
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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
1916
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1925, 1953
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  • Fri, 07/10/2020 - 8:51am by SteveR

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128
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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
1916
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1925, 1953
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The theater also outgrew its second location, so Brockwell purchased a lot across the street in October 1915, with plans to move to the theater into a new building to be built on the lot. By December, construction was underway on the new, purpose-built theater building (it included an attached auto station and repair, which was Brockwell's primary business), touted as the largest movie theater in the state. The 1915 Sanborn map (see excerpt below) and a circa 1920 photo of the south side of Franklin Street (also see below) shows two full-sized theaters (the other was the Tar Heel Theater, also owned by Brockwell). By the early 1920s, W. S. Roberson (Chapel Hill's mayor) was the proprietor of the theater and L. J. Phipps was the manager (Phipps was later a trustee for North Carolina Theaters, Inc.). The theater building was gutted by a fire in March 1924, but was expanded and reopened May 31, 1924, and was reported to be "well ventilated," with "a new projection machine and comfortable seats" for 750 patrons. Between the fire and the reopening of the theater, since Chapel Hill was temporarily without a movie theater, the YMCA showed movies in Gerrard Hall on the UNC campus.
 
 
December 1915 Sanborn map excerpt, showing theater building(s) being constructed
 
Exterior of theater, circa 1920 (via Chapel Hill Historical Society)
 
Interior of theater, 1916 (via UNC)
 
 
Circa 1920 photo of the south side of Franklin Street, showing the Pickwick Theatre (image courtesy UNC) 
 
By 1925 (see Sanborn map excerpt below) the theater had absorbed what had previously been part of the "auto station" (apparently, Brockwell got out of the auto-related business by this time) to its west, and was expanded. These changes likely occurred due to the 1924 fire.
 
June 1925 Sanborn map excerpt, showing building in its new configuration (outlined in red)
 
On July 3, 1927, the first radio broadcast originating in Orange County was broadcast from the Pickwick as WKBG, 850-860 AM. The program consisted of a choir concert, performed live from within the theater. The transmitting antenna was located on the building's roof. 
 
The Pickwick closed in 1931, which has been attributed to lack of attendance resulting from the Great Depression; however, the Carolina Theater had recently (1927) opened in a new building across the street and likely took away much of the Pickwick's business. 
 
September 1932 Sanborn map excerpt, showing unused movie theater (outlined in red)
 
UNC students in front of the closed Tar Heel (at left) and Pickwick (with arched entryway) theaters, 1934 (courtesy UNC)
 
After the theater sat vacant for a few years, in 1935 Brockwell leased the theater to North Carolina Theaters, Inc. (which also owned the Carolina Theater – the present-day Varsity Theater), and the theater was renamed the Pick Theater; however, due to some financial difficulties Brockwell had in 1925, when the Bank of Chapel Hill obtained a deed of trust on the property, the lease was renegotiated and became effective in July 1938 (to end in August 1945). Sometime during this period, the theater building served as a town courtroom until its reopening in 1938. North Carolina Theaters, Inc. made E. Carrington Smith (the manager of the Carolina Theater) the manager of the Pick. In 1940, Brockwell died, and in May 1942 his wife, Fannie, renewed the theater building's lease to North Carolina Theaters, Inc. The Pick Theater closed for good in 1946. 
 
The Pick Theater, 1940 
 
The Pick Theater, circa 1947
 
The structure was drastically remodeled circa 1953 as the Rollins Department Store, which remained in business until 1969.
 
Late 1960s postcard excerpt showing the Rollins Department Store in background (and Franklin Street's "Flower Ladies" in the foreground)
 
In the 1980s, the structure (known as the "Franklin Centre") was again remodeled (while it appears to be quite a mess, architecturally, it sure looks better than the 1950s remodel), with the facade and interior again being drastically altered. 
 
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THE STANDARD THEATER

601
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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
1915-1924
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1958-1970
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In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 09/10/2016 - 2:59pm by SteveR

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601
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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
1915-1924
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1958-1970
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The former Standard Theater (background, left side), April 1941 (screen shot from H. Lee Waters movie)

The Standard Theater opened July 4, 1924, and was originally owned by local African American enterpreneur Durwood O'Kelly; other business partners were Charles Brooks (the builder/contractor of the building), and Jesse Kirkland (the brick mason for the project). It had seating for 300. The theater also hosted social events and monthly dances, and the space was occasionally used for Sunday church services by various church congregations that did not have a building of their own. 

 

 
Sanborn map excerpt, June 1925
 
The theater closed in 1939; soon afterwards the building housed the Carolina Produce Company (see 1945 map excerpt below). By 1953 it was Williams Upholstering (and can be seen on the 1955 aerial photograph of Chapel Hill) and in 1957 also was a Sun Oil Company service station; by 1968 the property was Merritt Motors; by 1973 it was Village Auto; by 1978 it was Brooks & Tobin Motors. It may have been demolished by the time Merritt Motors utilized the property. Today, the site is (still) a used car lot at 601 West Franklin Street.
 
Sanborn map excerpt, December 1945 
 
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THE HOLLYWOOD THEATER

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Carrboro
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NC
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Built in
1930-1939
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Last updated

  • Mon, 08/15/2016 - 2:36pm by SteveR

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405
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Carrboro
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NC
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Built in
1930-1939
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The Hollywood Theater was located in Carrboro on East Main Street (also known as West Franklin Street at the time), near the merge with Rosemary Street. It began operation in 1939, and was opened to cater to Black patrons at the same time the Standard Theater closed down (actually, the Standard apparently closed due to the loss of patrons to the Hollywood). E. Carrington Smith, manager of the segregated Carolina Theater in downtown Chapel Hill, was the proprietor of the theater, and its manager was Kenneth Jones. In the early 1940s, weekly attendance was about 1,300 to 1,500 people, and the theater was open every day except Sundays. 

The Hollywood Theatre, May 1940 (photo by Jack Delano, courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The Hollywood Theatre, October 1939 or April 1941 (screen shot from H. Lee Waters movie)

"Movies of Local People" shown at the Hollywood Theatre, April 1941 (screen shot from H. Lee Waters movie)

 

The North Carolina photographer and movie maker, H. Lee Waters, filmed a quantity of footage on the border of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and his movies were shown at the Hollywood Theater on October 6th and 7th, 1939 and in April 1941. 

Sanborn map excerpt, December 1945

By 1961 the theater was no longer in business. The building is currently utilized as office space and an artists' studio.

Former Hollywood Theater, August 2011 (S. Rankin)

 

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122 W. KING ST. - OSBUNN THEATER

122
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Hillsborough
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NC
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Built in
1910-1920
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1980
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Last updated

  • Sun, 12/15/2019 - 8:53pm by gary

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122
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Hillsborough
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NC
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Built in
1910-1920
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1980
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2019
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122 W. King, early 20th century postcard (UNC Postcard Collection)

As Steve Rankin wryly pointed out, the predecessor (J. C. Scott) to this building housed a truly unfortunate concomitant combination of businesses.

Yes folks, that's undertaker and meat market - with an interior communcation (the gap in the common wall)

Hopefully the synergies were not what they hoped; by 1924 the brick building pictured above had been constructed, and it was a movie theater. In the postcard above, you can see the sandwich board in the front entrance, and someone wrote on the card "Theater" with a line pointing to the building. At some point, it became the Osbunn theater.

Gee Coleman, writing in the News of Orange in 2011 wrote that the theater was named for Oswin and Bunn Forrest - two brothers who were business partners in the early operation. He goes on:

During the Great Depression when so many mills shut down and his roller business was way down, [W.M. Chance] leased the closed theater in west Hillsboro from the owner, Scott Cates. It was the Hollywood Theater, and he began operations there about 1936.

Later, Mr. Chance bought the Osbunn Theatre on King Street in downtown Hillsboro from Ormond Crabtree, who was moving his family to Florida to go into the citrus grove business. Mr. Chance then closed the Roller Shop and concentrated on the movie business.

As was the case most of the time in those days when a man operated a small business, his family joined in and helped out in any way they could. I remember Mrs. Chance worked in the ticket booth of the Osbunn for many years, and I am sure that the rest of his large family worked there or at the Hollywood Theater at some time.

They included: Bill, who married Wynne Cole; Christine, who married H.S. (Shine) Baucom; Marie, who married William Cates; Fred, who married Ora Mincey; Grace, who married Jack Liedl and moved to Fairfax, Va.; Violet, who married Earl Bason; and Donald (Pee-Wee), who was the mascot of the Hillsboro High School Class of 1936 and now lives in western Colorado.

1966 (Hillsborough General Development Plan)

As of 2016 it houses Carolina Game and Fish.

National Register nomination:

This two-story, brick commercial building has been altered with the installation of replacement storefronts and stucco covering the second-floor level. The building has a flat roof behind a parapet roof with terra cotta coping. There is a one-light-over-three-panel door flanked by one-light display windows on the right (east) end of the façade with a stone stoop and a full-width boarded-up transom. On the left (west) end of the façade, paired one-light doors and two twelve-light windows are located in a wood surround covered with asbestos shingles. The former marquee is supported by cables and extends the full width of the façade, though has been covered with vertical plywood sheathing. The second-floor level has been covered with stucco, though a single two-over-two wood-sash window remains on the right end, lighting the former projection booth. A shed-roofed addition at the second-floor level of the right elevation sits atop the building at 120 West King Street. The building appears on the 1924 Sanborn map.

Photo by G. Kueber, 7.31.2016

Carolina Game and Fish closed in 2018. As of July 2019, the new owner is proposing to "restore the original brick veneer, original arched window openings and the 1960s marquee" as a part of a renovation to use the the building as a restaurant.

10.04.2019 (G. Kueber)

 

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236 S. NASH ST. - HOLLYWOOD THEATER

236
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Hillsborough
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NC
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Built in
1910-1924
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Last updated

  • Thu, 08/18/2016 - 8:12pm by gary

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236
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Hillsborough
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NC
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Built in
1910-1924
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1939, H. Lee Waters (State Archives of NC)

The Hollywood Theater closed in 19XX?

In 2011, Hillsborough BBQ Co. opened in this building.

07.31.2016 (G. Kueber)

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118-120 EAST MAIN ST.

118-120
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Carrboro
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NC
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1917-1920
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  • Tue, 09/24/2019 - 1:13pm by gary

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118-120
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Carrboro
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NC
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1917-1920
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1950s (Richard Ellington via http://carrborocommons.mj.unc.edu/?p=8967)

(Below from the Carrboro Commercial National Register Nomination)

Constructed in the early 1920s, this trio of two-story adjoining buildings comprised Carrboro's first true commercial block. Except for minor variations all of the units are identical. The easternmost building was constructed first, c. 1917. The identical building next door (to the west) was constructed next. Finally, the third building featuring a double storefront, was constructed last. The exact date of construction of the later two buildings is not known, however all three buildings appear on the 1921 Sanborn Map. Below slightly recessed window walls at the second story, the storefronts consist of large plate glass windows in wooden frames with recessed panelled aprons below, double doors, and multi-paned transoms and molded cornices extending the full width of the display windows. The easternmost unit, at the corner of Roberson and East Main streets, has undergone the greatest alteration with the renovation of its entrance facade and the addition of a shedroofed shake canopy. Today occupied by a bar, this unit originally was E. Samply Merritt's Drug Store. (As early as c. 1900, this corner lot had been occupied by a one-story frame building housing a hardware and building materials store; the fate of this earlier building is unknown.) For many years the unit next door (to the west) of Merritt's Drug Store was the site of the Melba Movie Theatre, named for the daughter of proprietor, Gurnie H. Ray. Some of the piano players in this silent movie theater with cane bottom kitchen chairs for seats were Brack Riggsbee, Mrs. Flossie Campbell and Mrs. Mack White. Tenants of the other buidling to the west of the movie theatre have included the Ward & Squires Furniture Store and Frank Durham's dry good store.

09.11.2019 (G. Kueber)

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COLONIAL MOVIE THEATRE

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Carrboro
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NC
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Built in
circa 1914
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circa 1924
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Last updated

  • Fri, 06/26/2020 - 12:10pm by SteveR

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Carrboro
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NC
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Built in
circa 1914
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circa 1924
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The Colonial Movie Theatre was located on New Greensboro Road (present-day Weaver Street), across from Durham Hosiery Mill Number 4. It operated from circa 1914 to 1917, and was mainly patronized by the local white mill workers and their families. The former theater's structure was likely destroyed in the 1924 fire that for the most part destroyed Carrboro's commercial district.

1915 Sanborn map excerpt, showing "Picture Show" structure

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THE HENRY GUTHRIE MOVING PICTURE HOUSE

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Chapel Hill
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NC
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Built in
circa 1916
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circa 1930
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In tours

Last updated

  • Fri, 06/26/2020 - 12:10pm by SteveR

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/* */ ,
Chapel Hill
/* */
NC
/* */
Built in
circa 1916
/* */ / Demolished in
circa 1930
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Local Historic District: 
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Neighborhood: 
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Type: 
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Use: 
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Henry "Buddy" Guthrie operated this movie theater. It was built circa 1916 and operated until early 1924; its demise may have been due to that it was "under suspicion of being conducted improperly and a menace to public morals" by the town (Willie Williams was likely hanging out in front of this theater location on November 15, 1924, when he was stabbed in the neck and killed by Fred Johnson), and also may have lost customers to newer theaters.

Excerpt of 1925 Sanborn map (Guthrie's is outlined in yellow)

The building was demolished by the early 1930s. The building was located approximately where Chapel Hill Cleaners is currently located.

 

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