Going to the show
Posted March 12, 2010 7:41 a.m. EST
Many thanks to Siteseeing reader Deborah Copeland for showing me a couple of terrific Web sites that explore long-gone movie theaters in our state.
DocSouth is a UNC Library site that collects and distributes all kinds of documents and files related to the history of the South. It has a feature called "Going to the Show," which allows you to look at the locations of old movie theaters in different North Carolina cities. Select a city from the dropdown box at the bottom of the page to begin exploring. The collection focuses on theaters of the silent-film era.
In a blog post last July, New Raleigh offered some photos of and details about defunct downtown Raleigh theaters. According to New Raleigh, the first Raleigh theater opened in 1905 at the Metropolitan Hall, which apparently was a popular hang-out. The first theater dedicated solely to movies was The Gem, which opened in 1909 at 105 Fayetteville Street, which would be the block just south of the Capitol, I suppose. Also, from the New Raleigh post:
Since that first theater opened in Raleigh, around 23 movie theaters have existed downtown throughout the years. Most were only around for a year or two, like the Lyric (1914-1917), and The State (1924). Theaters like the Ambassador were around for many years, and people still remember going to movies there as a kid. There have been 8 theaters on Fayetteville alone (the Lyric, Grand, Superba, Gem, Almo, Ambassador, Gaiety, and the Grand), with the longest running, The Ambassabor, closing in 1979.