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Moved to the area in 1998, and saw a few films here. The only two that come to mind are “There’s Something About Mary” and “Lethal Weapon 4.” What I recall about the décor was that they had a lot of black-and-white checkered tile everywhere, which made the lobby look like a fancy/tacky bathroom (while it may have been fashionable at one time).
Wasn’t a bad place to see movies, but AMC opened West Oaks at the mall about a mile away and it was the preferable (brand new) location. Plus with the theater tucked back off the main road, it wasn’t really noticeable. It wasn’t until years after it closed that I realized it was gone. The West Orange theater just past West Oaks is just as tucked away, but had the benefit of playing artier fare and served food and beer/wine, so it attracted a dedicated crowd.
Too bad, regardless – while it’s still standing as a church now, I hate to see these businesses close up.
Most of the State Cinema ads I saw from 1980 and 1981 promoted a Friday Teen Night with dancing from 9:00pm to 11:00pm after the movie, with a lighted dance floor. Funny enough, the early-to-mid 1980 ads promoted it as “Disco” while that word is noticably absent from later ads.
I figured out that I saw this place in the afternoon on Valentine’s Day 1981 – Alligator played there from 2/13 to 2/19/81, so Saturday the 14th (now that’s a bad movie) would have been the time I was there with my family.
This was one tough theater to track down. I had a recollection from childhood of walking down Main St. in Mooresville with my family (we were visiting from Charlotte). We came across a small theater that was closed in the afternoons which had what appeared to be a tiny lobby/concession area, woefully outdated decor, and horror/exploitation movies playing. “Alligator” was the movie playing at the time and there was a poster up for “Mother’s Day” – the original Troma version – coming soon. I remembered the movies vividly because I was around 10 years-old at the time and was a little frightened of them, especially the Mother’s Day poster with the head in a box.
Looking back, I realized I had passed by what I considered to be a (rare) NC grindhouse theater. In recent years, I’ve been curious to learn more about this place. When I saw the overview here that it closed in 1950, I thought maybe I had remembered the wrong town, however I checked through an online database for some old Mooresville Tribune newspapers from 1980 and found that this is the theater I was looking for. Here’s what I found:
The address is 241 N. Main St.
On May 11, 1955, cowboy movie star Tim Holt appeared at the State Theatre
The State Theatre changed its name to State Cinema with a marquee change in September 1974.
State Cinema closed in September 1985, the same month that the Mooresville-Davidson Drive-In closed.
Well, no. I did see E.T. at the Capri, but I was 11 at the time. Saw Lethal Weapon at a General Cinema in Pineville that had just opened. We had Lethal Weapon 2 at Town Cinema 6 in 1989 while I was there. Talk about capacity crowds, “Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood” sold out on Friday, May 13th 1988 at TC6. That was a wild crowd.
I got to visit this drive-in back in 1992 for an odd double-feature of “Sleepwalkers” – a mostly forgotten Stephen King-scripted film and “Basic Instinct.” I was in Waynesville pretty much by accident, so it was a pleasant little surprise to have this theater out there in the country. One drawback however was that it was fairly close to a cow pasture, which means if the wind blew in the wrong direction, the aroma was pretty bad. It didn’t affect the experience much though.
I was hoping someone could verify some info for me. There was an old-school theater in Lenoir like this one that was in operation in the early 90s – the balcony was half converted into the world’s smallest auditorium (I believe it was to show art films) next to a very limited view, narrow balcony. Is this the theater?
I don’t recall why, but after working at Town Cinema 6 for a while, I ended up working at University Place briefly, too. It was still run by Consolidated when I was there. The manager was Art Justice – super nice guy to work for. I worked there in 1988, but never advanced much further than concession worker (at Town Cinema, I was a projectionist/relief manager).
On Halloween night, 1988, the power was out in almost all of University Place. I think the grocery store was the only business with some sort of power running. We all stayed there anyway (on the clock, no less) and just hung out. The drink machines were electric, but the fruit punch machines still dispensed. So here we were, a bunch of idiots in the dark drinking fruit punch and someone had the bright idea to bring a ouija board (it was Halloween, after all). I know this story’s going to sound like something from a slumber party or a sub-par/super-cliched Goosebumps story, but I assure you it’s all true…
We took turns playing with the ouija board and contacted the spirit Ted (he spelled out his name – haha). This was after a lot of “Are you moving it? You’re moving it aren’t you?” We all sat around the board and someone asked “If you’re really here, give us a sign.” Just then, the two people on the board slid the pointer off the side of the board and the theater lights flickered on and back off. Coincidence? Sure, but it spooked us all pretty well.
On one fateful night, I was working Saturday evening and didn’t feel well. I remember a friend of mine came in to see Iron Eagle 2 (so he was the one) and the new, big movie of the week was U2 Rattle and Hum. I wasn’t feeling well. As the evening went on, I just got worse and worse, and my shift didn’t end until 1:00 am. Turns out my appendix burst. I was in the hospital the next day and was there for over a week. After I got home, I called the theater and sadly resigned. It was a tough call, but I was also in my senior year of high school and getting ready to go off to college.
That said, it’s yet another theater casualty of my youth. I need to check out that building sometime and see if there are any remnants left.
I frequented this theater quite a bit during the 70s and 80s, mainly because it was the closest theater to home. I recall it’s original state when it was run by ABC Theaters. When I was 8, my dad too me to see “Superman The Movie” – on January 1, 1979. I also saw “Oh Heavenly Dog” and “Brainstorm” at Tryon Mall.
They ran the summer kids movie program that my elementary school sold tickets to. Saw some odd stuff that I never would have thought to see in a theater that way, like “A Man Called Flintstone” and even “Born Free.”
It also counts as the only theater I ever rode my bike to to see a movie (I believe it was the 1985 version of “Brewster’s Millions”). This was during its unfortunate 4 auditorium + video arcade phase, but it was only a dollar. And although I don’t recall what movie I was supposed to see, I remember sneaking into “Jo Jo Dancer Your Life is Calling” in the theater next to it. When you’re 15, and you sneak into a theater to see an R-rated movie, make sure it’s not a drama/bio-pic.
I miss the old place – even the house I grew up in nearby has been leveled – but the area really went downhill and never seemed to recover. Looking at the picture when it was some sort of nightclub, I couldn’t help but notice how bad the pavement looks. It was bad back in the 80’s too. In fact, I once hit a pothole in the parking lot (behind the mall, where some nightclub used to be, but was already long gone) and it broke a battery cell. The fact that it has never been repaired tells you how much the area has been left to rot. It’s too bad. I used to enjoy this area in my childhood.
I love that one of the pictures online is of “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” playing at the Capri – saw it there multiple times. Back when the movie was released, McDonald’s ran a Happy Meal tie-in campaign. What made it more special is if you brought your empty Star Trek Happy Meal box to the Capri, they would fill it with popcorn for free. I had a stack of those boxes (all legitimately purchased), so I honestly don’t recall how many times I saw that picture, maybe 3 or 4.
I saw many, many movies at the Capri through the 70s and 80s. At the moment, only “Star Trek – TMP,” “Superman III,” “ and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” are springing to mind. I remember very well that one of the auditoriums had a stage. I only ever saw maybe someone during a radio station promotion on that stage, though.
I had a very, very brief work experience at the Capri in the late 80s, when it was a second-run house and sadly on it’s way out. I worked at the Town Cinema 6 over by UNCC and they were both run by Carmike at the time. We frequently ran supplies back and forth to each theater (CO2 tanks, popcorn oil drums, etc.), so we were all familiar with each other. After a management change, a buddy of mine at Town Cinema, where we were both assistant or relief managers, was asked to come over and help manage the Capri.
At that time, the Capri was run by a family (or at least the manager had employed her son), and I think higher management wanted someone (competent) to come in and help them – don’t mean to step on any toes, but the manager was an older lady and her adult son kept sidling up to me saying “Mama is gonna clean house.” Guess they had additional staff issues, but he didn’t elaborate.
I went over one evening with some sort of delivery and my buddy gave me a tour of the place (not the stage area – didn’t even think of it at the time). I had gotten used to having a popcorn popper in the concession area, so seeing that the Capri’s was upstairs by the projector booth was strange to me.
When a show was about to start that night, I jumped behind the concession stand to help (I don’t think they needed me to, but I was trying to justify hanging out there – I always liked the place). No one warned me, but their butter pump had a heck of a kickback. One pump and I was wearing the oil when it splashed all over the top of the popcorn. Oh well, it was still fun. I wish I had hung out more there while it was still in operation. A great old theater!
The Thunderbird was the first drive-in theater I ever experienced. I was quite young at the time, but I recall seeing some great stuff there like Star Wars and Superman. I only recall ever going to see one other movie (although I’m sure there were others, but I’m pretty confident this was the last) – Firefox with Clint Eastwood. I was around 8 when I saw Superman there, having already seen it once before down the road at Tryon Mall. I remember playing on the swingset down in front of the screen, then getting a little freaked out when the cartoons started on the giant screen right above me (it was Knighty Knight Bugs).
When I was younger, horror films scared me sight-unseen, yet I found myself fascinated with them via magazines and later video stores – I wouldn’t rent them, but I would read all the boxes. In the early 80s, Creepshow played at the Thunderbird. I had read the comic book version at the bookstore, but the thought of seeing the movie scared me. On Eastway Dr, between The Plaza and Tryon, there was a bridge that went over some train tracks. If you looked off in the distance, you could see the Thunderbird’s screen pretty dead on. I remember riding in a car and forcing myself at the bridge to glance over when Creepshow was playing (it would have been a miracle if I could have made out what was on the screen).
I was a weird kid. I love that movie.
Although I’ve been to several other drive-ins over the years, this one has always seemed like the nicest one (rose-tinted memories, I guess).
Quick correction; after zooming in more on Google Earth, I could see that there is a car dealership next to the Holiday Inn Express (Best Way Auto Sales), so the original comment was correct.
Actually, there’s a Holiday Inn Express and a Panera Bread on the property where the Hickory Drive-In once stood. The furinture mart had been there next door back during the Drive-In days. Back in 1989 and possibly 1990 (not positive of the closing date), I got to go here a few times. I recall loading a friend’s pickup truck with a sofa, then using it to lounge in the open air while watching “Flight of the Intruder. I forget how many people rode in the back of the truck to get in there (it was like $5 a carload). Also saw Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan there. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really saw a decent movie there, but it was fun to go with friends.
After it closed, the Carolina Theater downtown (also owned by Benfield at the time) got all of the marquis letters from the drive-in.
Fun fact – Ben Benfield of Benfield Theaters actually had a snack food business: packaged cotton candy, caramel corn, popcorn, etc. The Carolina didn’t have a popcorn popper back then, just a warmer. Benfield would have big bags of popcorn delivered to the theater – can’t speak for the drive-in, but I worked at the Carolina so I knew first hand. Popcorn apparently keeps well. I don’t recall it ever being stale once it was warmed.
I can’t recall just how many films I saw at Charlottetown, but I do know that I saw Octopussy there (since you mentioned 007 movies), and I recall on that trip seeing the posters and standees in the lobby for Jaws 3-D and being petrified. Found out a year or two later how lousy it was on HBO. Unfortunately, although I did see Raiders of the Lost Ark in a theater, it was second run at the Regency on Albemarle.
Okay, first things first… the Carolina is a special place in my life, though not necessarily always in the most positive way. I worked there in the early nineties as an assistant manager while going to school at the nearby college. It also marks the only time in my life that I was ever fired from a job.
It was a fascinating place full of history: a great place to wander around and check out every little nook and cranny. It was also frustrating – you could tell how grand the place must have been in its earlier incarnations before the balcony was converted to a second auditorium (not for the handicapped, mind you, unless they figured out how to install an elevator over the years). Behind the permanently installed main screen was a full stage complete with fly system, making you wonder why they would permanently block it off. Speaking of history, it wasn’t all pleasant history, as the bathroom up in the upstairs projector booth sported “Blacks Only” painted on the door. Don’t know if it’s been removed since, or left for historical context.
So aside from that, you couldn’t help but want the place to go back in time and undo some of the changes. What was left was still an interesting place in a town that at the time was lacking. I’ve only driven through Hickory twice in the last 23 years since graduation (nowhere near the theater), so I know the town has changed dramatically for the better. I’ve seen the Carolina’s website and the rennovations that have been done since I last saw it. I have to commend the new owners – one was the manager when I was there – on their commitment to keeping the theater a valued location in the city (and for removing that awful facade out front above the marquis).
Although it wasn’t entirely unexpected, it was sad to hear of Lacy’s passing – she was an institution even when I was there and a super sweet lady.
As for the firing, all I can say all these years later is that I didn’t do it (take money missing from the ticket window on two occasions when I was managing). After moping about it for weeks, and having two professors instruct me to snap out of it, I doubled-down on my school work and had a major grade improvement in my last year of college. So I guess it was positive after all.
Although their names escape me, I got to know a couple of the managers/projectionists there while I was working at the Carolina theater downtown during my college years. They invited me to come over on Thursday afternoons to preview the movies before they started on Friday. I remember seeing Hero with Dustin Hoffman and Matinee with John Goodman that way, just a tiny group of us in a closed theater.
Before that, my clearest memory of the place was of a not-so-great night when my roommate and I went to see The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. We had been shotgunning Schlitz Malt Liquor in the dorm and I ended up in the theater’s bathroom sick for almost the entire length of the movie.
Didn’t say it was a good story.
If the guys I knew working there at the time remember me and read this, drop me a line.
Another story… They referred another guy to me who had a huge personal collection of 35mm film trailers that they had spliced together into two large reels for him. This is right around the time (or right before) watching trailers alone as entertainment was becoming a thing on home video. Originally, they were going to let him watch them in their auditorium (the guy had never watched them – not many folks have 35mm projectors available for personal use). However, some of the trailers were for adult films, so management understandably wouldn’t allow it.
The Carolina was independently owned, so I got permission to run the trailers one afternoon while the theater was closed. Can’t recall if the Terrace guys were there or not, but I think there were more than just the collector and me there. This collection was well worth the watch for some of the stuff he had. He had a 1950’s re-issue of the Bela Lugosi Dracula that was really cool to see, and some obscure Burt Reynolds movie I never heard of – W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings. However once it got to the adult films, which were of the 70’s “oh no, there’s a plot” variety, things got a little awkward, but over all it was a cool event.
I have been in this theater many times (went to college in Hickory). The first film I ever saw there was the John Belushi bio-pic Wired, which was terrible, but that was the first of many. Tales from the Darkside – The Movie, Silence of the Lambs (religious protestors showed up at this one to preach something in a megaphone from the back of a truck to the people in line outside – no one could tell what they were saying), City Slickers, Christmas Vacation, Army of Darkness, and the night before opening of Batman Returns. Lots of great memories there. I only saw this place after it had 6 auditoriums, but you could tell a lot of it was added on – the layout was positively serpentine, but that was honestly part of the charm to me; you make a wrong turn and you could get a little lost. Great place.
I was one of the many who saw Star Wars here during its original engagement. I was six at the time; my father and older brother went without me – I didn’t want to go (they watched Star Trek reruns all the time and I thought it was the same thing). They came home within an hour because it was sold out. When they tried again, I tagged along and from the opening crawl on, I was hooked – still have my first two action figures from back then – C3P0 and R2D2.
I saw many movies at Charlottetown over the years. It was THE place for midnight movies in Charlotte. They had lenghty engagement of Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with live floor show that I had the opportunity to see. Also went with friends to a showing of Pink Floyd The Wall, in which I fell asleep halfway through (I’d seen it on video before, though). Saw some great movies there over the years (the aforementioned Star Wars, pre-New Hope title) and some really bad ones (anyone else remember Disorderlies starring The Fat Boys?). It was a great old place, but it was wearing down back in the 80s. Still sad to see it go.
I had the pleasure of seeing Rambo First Blood Part II the opening week of Town Cinema 6 in 1985. I started working there in 1987 (my first job), shortly after Carmike took it over. The pay was horrible – since I was in high school, I was paid a “student” wage, which was below minimum (it was somewhere around $2.50 to $2.75 an hour). I loved it anyway. Free movies, popcorn, and drinks somehow make up for low wages, at least when you’re 16. I see in the other comments how Amadeus showed there in 70mm; projector #6, which was for one of the two big auditoriums, had the 70mm fittings, but I doubt they were ever used again. I know they weren’t used between 1987 and 1990, plus other theaters that came along were more advanced for special engagements like that.
The lifespan of a film was interesting to watch – we had some films that were pulled within a week because no one was coming to see them (Evil Dead 2 was one of them). And although not a grindhouse, there were so many obscure, grindhouse-style or 80s horror that passed through there: anthology films like The Offspring with Vincent Price, Creepshow 2, and forgotten oddities like Nightmare at Shadow Woods, or The Outing.
But the summer of 87 was amazing. In just a couple of short months, we had The Untouchables, Predator, Robocop, The Lost Boys, The Living Daylights, Innerspace, Jaws the Revenge… okay scratch that last one. It was a very busy, very fun summer.
Despite becoming my second home, the theater itself was nothing special. Dull green curtains throughout the auditoriums, green carpets and accents on gray walls in the lobby (I wish I had pictures). Three auditoriums on each side of the building – 2 big and 4 small. In the back of the middle auditoriums on each side were small rooms. The small room on the left was where the drink syrup and CO2 tanks were setup and stored; if you were watching a film in this auditorium, you probably heard the release valves of the CO2 tanks with short bursts of hissing sounds. On the right, the small room had the time clock and early on had a rack with the vests we wore.
The manager’s office was the first door on the left when you entered the lobby. For a time, the district offices were located here, so the district manager’s office was the first door on the right (which became storage later on) and the general manager had an office between the second and third auditoriums on the right.
That only left the candy/popcorn storage – last door on the left side before the exit. For a long time the door to that room didn’t even have a doorknob on it. All it took was one theft to get one installed.
The projector booth was H shaped. Despite inadequate air conditioning, I spent many hours up there either building/breaking down films, threading/running projectors, or just sitting by the windows watching the movies themselves. Plus I’ve fixed my share of brain-wraps (if you’ve ever worked in a theater with a platter system, you know what I’m talking about). A wicked wrap left a nasty scratch down the print of Beetlejuice for a good reel or so (we got that movie months after it had been released, so it didn’t really upset any crowds). Sometimes we would find some gems up there, like old prints of Music Video ZAP, which were just music videos like Rick Springfield’s Bop til You Drop and Sade’s Smooth Operator. These videos were advertised in the paper along with the movies back when the place opened.
And I’ve seen it mentioned on other theater sites, yes, the marquis was above a slanted, slippery metal roof that you had to shimmy up to from the top of a rickety step ladder. I have changed it in the rain, snow, and ice. But even on a clear day, it was no treat. Minor sour grapes there.
It was sad to hear about the theater’s decline and that it was leveled, but I was glad to be there during the heyday. Thanks to facebook, I’ve reconnected with several former co-workers from 30 years ago. We all look back at it fondly (we were so young). It was a huge part of my youth, so it will always maintain a special place in my heart.
This theater closed again in 2015. According to a news story, I believe it’s going to become a poker room, with a restaurant/bar and could expand to include a stand-up comedy auditorium. Kind of cool, but I was looking forward to this as a discount movie house when I moved to the area about a week before its closure.
I got to tour this theater during the initial phase of restoration fundraising, which I could swear was during Springfest in the early-mid 90s (do they do Springfest in Charlotte anymore?). It was very surreal – the entire lobby corridor was gone. The main entrance to the auditorium was set back from North Tryon with the space between where the old marquis was and the auditorium door just an open-air area. The auditorium itself was decrepit and stunning at the same time. I’m assuming the structure itself was sound, but it was like walking through a building that had been burned out – dark, dingy, but fascinating nonetheless. I’m glad to hear it’s being restored. I worked at several theaters in Charlotte and frequented many others in the 70s, 80s, and 90s – most all have been torn down. It seems that there could be some positive use for these old auditoriums, but that can’t always be the case.
For a while, Carmike had their district office in this theater, until it moved to the Town Cinema Six near UNCC. I worked for Carmike back during that time and helped move the office furniture. I got to see the screens coming down and seats removed from the auditorium. It was a little sad since I had seen TRON there years prior. One of the old theater seats sat in offices of Town Cinema for quite a while. I’m sure it was taken by a manager at some point (or trashed).