529 N. Main Street,
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Captain E.A. Smith saw the long-standing Rex Theatre burn down June 14, 1933. Though the Rex Theatre continued in temporary digs, Smith contracted with local architect Erle G. Stillwell for a new, state of the art theatre which would be called the Carolina Theatre. It launched on March 6, 1933 with George Arlis in “The King’s Vacation”. Each of the 514 main level and 142 balcony seats for African American patrons were filled on opening night.
Paramount Pictures Circuit operated this first of two Carolina Theaters through its H.F. Kincey-Publix subsidiary. Stillwell created an Italian Renaissance/Atmospheric style theater designed to look like an Italian garden. Using artist Navino Nataloni of New York’s paintings and mural scapes, the ceiling had cloud and star lighting effects to transform audiences’ gauzes.
The theater also had a 42 feet wide and 24 feet depth stage for doing live pre-shows and other events, In 1940, the venue was getting a refresh for Wilby-Kincey to transform it to a more streamlined look. But like the Rex Theatre built before it, the theatre was completely gutted by fire on May 10, 1940. The second Carolina Theatre launched a year later in May of 1941 in the same spot.
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