As always, click on pics to see them full size

Paul “Fuzzy” Ayers

This blog post would not have been possible without Paul “Fuzzy” Ayers. Paul was born in 1925 in Winston-Salem, served in the US Navy, then joined the Winston-Salem Fire Department, retiring with the rank of captain after 30 years. He also spent many years training EMTs at Forsyth Tech. But before all that, he worked as an usher at the grand Carolina Theater and caught the show business bug. In addition to being a founding member of the Wilby Kincy Theatre Association, he spent decades compiling a book, a labor of love, called “WS Theatre History” which lists every theater that opened in the city between 1880 and 1989. We have a bound Xeroxed copy of his manuscript…but have no idea where the original is. Much of the information in this post comes directly from Fuzzy’s book. Much more has been added by original research.

Friday, November 21, 1916

 

In the beginning

Salem Aeltesten Conferenz diary, 1851

The first local space dedicated to public entertainment was created in the early 1840s. The Sixth House in Salem, located south of Fish Alley at Main Street, erected in early 1768 for use of the potter, was subdivided into four parts in 1843, and one part given over to the music association for a practice and concert venue, becoming known as the “concert hall”, later the “music hall”. Because of an early ban on “good-for-nothing things” (i.e “pop” music and other disreputable acts), as the church leadership termed it, most of the performances appear to have been lectures, many sponsored by the temperance society. There were a number of “picture shows”, usually called “magic lanterns”, put on by Br. Christian Friedrich Sussdorf, who had to promise not to sing any “unbecoming songs” in order to obtain permission. When Forsyth County was created in 1849, Salem leaders reluctantly agreed to allow the new county court to use the building until a new courthouse could be erected in Winston, provided that any corporal punishment meted out be done outside of Salem. The building was demolished in 1871 to make way for the new and magnificent Shaffner House.

Magic lantern shows began in the 17th century with a light source, a transparent image and a lens. By the time Br. Sussdorf began his work in the mid-19th century, the shows had become pretty sophisticated, achieving 3-D projection and image movement via a number of devices, including triple lens projectors and multi-part mechanical slides. Br. Sussdorf’s shows were good enough that he traveled the southeast with them. The shows remained popular well into the 20th century as the equipment evolved into the modern slide projector, which is the basis of the digital presentations usually known as “PowerPoint”, although many of those are now produced with cheapware or freeware that matches or exceeds Microsoft’s PowerPoint capabilities.

1880 – Brown’s Opera House

In 1880, the town of Winston, NC got its first nonsecular dedicated indoor entertainment venue, Brown’s Opera House, on Fourth Street across from the county courthouse. Brown’s seated about 600, but there was a separate gallery for black citizens. And that gallery was usually the first to fill up, whether the show was a magic lantern, a lecturer, a famous opera singer, a touring Shakespeare company or Blind Tom, the most popular American music act of the latter 19th century. It closed in 1895. For some time afterward, the Forsyth Rifles’ armory in the municipal building became Brown’s replacement, with tobacco sales warehouses used for larger events.

1900 – Nissen Park

In 1900, the streetcar company, in conjunction with the Nissen Wagon Works, opened Nissen Park on Waughtown Street near the Nissen plant. It had landscaped strollways, ponds, a huge concrete skating rink, outdoor bowling alleys and a small zoo. It was the first local facility specifically equipped to show the new “moving pictures”. Most nights it showed five to ten very short films on an outdoor screen. Admission was free with your streetcar ticket stub.

This 1903 Nissen Park program was a typical one

On weekends, Nissen Park offered free concerts, bowling tournaments, or dance contests, along with greased pole climbing or pig catching for the kids. Crowds of ten thousand were not unusual.

 

DOWNTOWN THEATERS

1903 – Elks Auditorium

The Elks’ Auditorium opened on September 24, 1903 with a vaudeville show put on by the local Elks. It drew a standing room only crowd of over 1,300 and brought in $1,100, more than enough to pay for the seats and interior fixtures of the $35,000 building. A second showing was given the next night at half price to accommodate those who had not been able to get in the night before. The gallery for black patrons was accessed by the side door on Fifth Street, which had a separate lobby with stairs on both sides leading to the third level. It had nine rows of seats, the first three reserved at a premium price, and seated 450, a bit over a third of the total capacity of 1,225.

 

Elks Auditorium grand opening…the players…the dog is a real dog, but most of the women are not real women…

In 1903, the Winston Elks Club built a headquarters at 442 North Liberty Street, at the corner of Fifth, that incorporated an auditorium especially adapted for stage productions, including 50 foot drops with a collection of generic stage backgrounds and was considered the finest theater between Washington, DC and Atlanta. It had a balcony with a separate entrance set aside for black patrons. It would not be equipped for movies until several years later.

The Elks Auditorium burned on April 27, 1916 and had to be demolished

1906 – Mystic

The Mystic Theater opened on April 18, 1906 at 240 North Main, between Wachovia Loan & Trust and Wachovia National Bank, at the corner of Main and Third and directly across the street from the brand new Zinzendorf Hotel. In May, 1908 it was sold at  a sheriff’s auction for debts. The new owners moved the equipment from the defunct Marvel Theater and reopened under the old Marvel name. In addition to vaudeville shows and moving pictures, it offered a huge animated scoreboard that showed a play-by-play of the baseball World Series. The theater gave its last performance on Saturday night, May 29, 1909. The equipment was moved to the new Airdome on Liberty, which opened barely a week later.

At the left on Main Street is the Wachovia Loan & Trust Company. Next to it the tree marks the site of Ida Riddle’s boarding house…next, three commercial buildings, the most distant being the Wachovia National Bank…the darker building in the middle was the home of the Mystic/Marvel Theater…Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

1907 – Marvel

The Marvel Theater opened October 12, 1907 directly opposite the Forsyth County Courthouse at 305 North Main Street. It seated 208. . It closed and reopened several times, lasting only a few months. See Mystic above.

The 1892 Winston Town Hall is at the left…the Tise Building is at the center…the first bay of the two story building to its right housed the short lived Marvel Theater…

1909 – Pickwick

The Pickwick Theater opened April 10, 1909 at 435 North Liberty Street. It closed shortly after the grand new Liberty opened next door in 1911.

1909 – Twin City Vaudeville Theater

The Twin City Vaudeville Theater opened April 27, 1909 in the new Fogle Building at 420 North Trade Street. It closed in May and its equipment was moved to the new Airdome which opened a few weeks later.

1909 – Airdome

The Airdome Theater opened June 8, 1909 at 242 North Liberty Street, near the corner of Third. It was a new idea in theaters. Because air conditioning had not yet been invented, a hot summer night, with hundreds of sweaty bodies encased within brick walls, was not the most pleasant time to be in a theater. At the Airdome, the stage and screen and the projection booth were indoors, but the seating was open to the sky, similar to the later drive-in theaters.

At first, Airdome was plagued by weather problems, but they soon built a retractable canvas roof so that they could operate when it was raining. The concept was so successful that a second Airdome opened on North Trade Street on June 5, 1911. But cold weather was also a problem and there were no portable heaters that could solve the problem. The inability to operate 365 days a year soon ended the Airdome experiment. The owners sold their “good will” to the operators of the Liberty Theater in 1911.

The Sanborn Insurance Map gives us a birds-eye view of the first Airdome Theater and its surroundings. Airdome consisted of two buildings, one housing the stage, at left, the other having limited covered seats and the projection equipment, at right. A roll-out canvas awning made it possible to continue shows during rain events. There were high fences on the north and south and Liberty Street sides to exclude freeloaders.
Of note elsewhere is the Twin City’s first true high rise building, the Wachovia Bank & Trust Company, and the brick building just across Liberty from the Airdome, which was home to the offices and printing plant of the weekly Western Sentinel (founded 1857) and the Twin City Daily Sentinel (founded 1892). The Sentinel would merge in the mid-1920s with the morning daily Journal to become the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel newspapers.

1909 – Lyric / Amuzu

Edgar Pierce, owner and manager of the Amuzu, would do anything to promote his business, even ride a donkey down Fourth Street

The Lyric Theater opened September 8, 1909 at 116 West Fourth Street. On August 7, 1910, it changed ownership and became the Amuzu Theater, a very popular venue that closed around 1930 with the changeover to talking pictures.

Historic Winston, Inc. owns the Amuzu’s carbon arc projector and a number of hand colored preview slides for silent era movies. They were combined for a popular exhibit at the old Winston-Salem Museum in the original Wachovia Bank & Trust Building in the late 1970s – early 1980s. We hope to see them again someday soon.

The Amuzu Theater, 1912-13. “Put Yourself in His Place” was adapted from an 1870 English novel written by Charles Reade. It was directed by Theodore Marston and starred William Garwood and Marguerite Snow. It was released October 29, 1912. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

1910 – Hippodrome

The Hippodrome Theater opened November 1, 1910 at 516 North Liberty. It closed by the end of the year and its equipment was moved to the new Trade Street Airdome, which see below.

1911 Trade Street Airdome

The Trade Street Airdome opened on June 5, 1911 at 431-33 North Trade Street, next to Sink and Fansler’s paint and wallpaper store. It closed a very successful first season in early November, but never reopened.

1911 – Liberty / Dreamland / Paramount / Broadway / Forsythe / Colonial / Center

The spectacular Liberty was designed by Willard C. Northup, founder of the legendary architectural firm of Northup & O’Brien

The new Liberty opened on September 11, 1911 in a grand new building designed by local architect Willard C. Northup at 429 North Liberty Street. The building worked, but attendance was not quite what had been hoped for, so it was renamed the Dreamland Theater in 1914. Renamed Paramount February 1, 1915. Renamed Broadway, 1918. Renamed Forsythe, September 17, 1923. Building facade renovated and reopened as Colonial, February 8, 1926. Renamed Center, February 8, 1957. Demolished to make way for a parking deck, March 8, 1972. The longest running theater in the city.

The Liberty had its facade “modernized” and was renamed the Colonial in 1926

 

Colonial in early 1950s

 

1912 – Rex

The only picture we have of the Rex comes from a 1912 newspaper ad…this image is significantly enlarged and Photoshopped for as much clarity as possible…

The Rex Theater opened at 104 East Fourth Street in late 1912. Like many early theaters, it suffered from the fact that early movie film was highly flammable. Following several fires and competition from two newer theaters, it closed in 1925, then reopened as the New Rex on April 14, 1928, finally closing in 1931.

1912 – Elmont / Ideal / Hollywood

Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

The Elmont Theater opened October 10, 1912 at 411 North Liberty Street. Became Ideal, March 2, 1925. Became Hollywood, April 6, 1934. Burned, January 27, 1948.

Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

1913 – Pilot

Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

The Pilot Theater opened August 8, 1913 at 111 West Fourth Street. In 1916 a balcony was added, increasing seating capacity by 50%. The Pilot had a reversed floor plan, so that you entered next to the screen, facing the audience. The building stood until just a few years ago.

1914 Airdome II

The Airdome II was built in 1914 on the site of the recently demolished O’Hanlon’s Drugstore building at the corner of Fourth and Liberty Streets. There was constant squabbling over who owed who money. The owners announced an opening date, but there is no evidence that the Airdome II ever opened. It was sold at auction by the sheriff and the structure scavanged for building materials. The next year, the current O’Hanlon Building was built on the site.

1917 – Dunbar

The Dunbar Theater opened in late 1917 on Depot Street (North Patterson Avenue) at the corner of East Sixth. It closed in January, 1922.

1918 – Auditorium / State

The original Elks Auditorium burned on April 27, 1916. At first the Elks Club vowed to rebuild, but soon decided to get out of the theater business. A. Fuller Sams and Alex F. Moses and their Piedmont Amusement Company already owned the Pilot, the Broadway and the Elmont Theaters. They stepped in  and constructed a brand new building on the site, dubbing it simply the Auditorium Theater, which opened on January 28, 1918 at 442 North Liberty Street. It was a $100,000, fireproof structure with all the latest motion picture technology and would become one of the longest running theaters in Twin City history. It had 1,800 seats.

“The Covered Wagon”, directed by James Cruze, opened in New York in 1923 for a 50 week run. It was the first American “epic” film not made by D.W. Griffith. It was the most popular moving picture of the year, having runs of 23 weeks in Chicago, 34 in Hollywood, 22 in Boston and overseas, 36 weeks in London and 9 weeks in Sydney, Australia. The film had nothing to do with Winston-Salem…it was about the opening of the west…and the wagons used in the film, about 500 of them, all came from the Southwest, where the producers paid locals $2 a day and feed for their animals for use in the film. But a number of those wagons had been made by the Nissen Wagon Works in Waughtown, and before the show opened in New York, the producers came to town and purchased several Nissen wagons to use in promoting the event in New York and other major cities.

And when the film opened for a three day run at the Auditorium Theater in the Twin City on Monday, June 30, 1924, an old local “crooked bed” Nissen wagon was resurrected and driven through the streets by Richard Nissen, a grandson of the man who made it, accompanied by his cousin, Miss Frances Shore, one of J.P. Nissen’s great granddaughters. This picture appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal on July 1, 1924. It was taken in front of one of the Nissen houses on Waughtown Street.

People drove, or took the train, to Winston-Salem from all over the state to see “The Covered Wagon”, which got held over for a fourth day. On Monday, July 7, the film opened at the National Theater in Greensboro and set a record for attendance at that theater. On Monday and Tuesday, July 14 and 15, the film ran from 9:00 AM until midnight at the Rex and Lafayette Theaters in the Twin City to standing room only audiences, the first time that it had been shown anywhere at theaters reserved for black audiences.

In late July, “The Covered Wagon” returned to Winston-Salem for a multi-day run at the Broadway Theater, a couple of hundred feet south of the Auditorium. By then the word was out and those in the know were reserving seats for private parties for their guests from as far away as Richmond, Charleston and Chattanooga. Richard Nissen and Francis Shore were probably glad to see the end of the run.

Movies were the Auditorium’s bread and butter, but it always tried to present live shows, Will Rogers performing there more than once, and stage drama, which as the State it revived in the early 1940s with such productions as Judith Anderson and Boris Karloff in “Arsenic and Old Lace” and Tallulah Bankhead in “The Little Foxes”. Acquired by a combine including the Piedmont Amusement Company, the Wilby-Kincey Theaters, and Publix-Sanger, and renamed the State, it reopened Easter Monday, April 21, 1930 as the State.

Alabama bombshell Tallulah Bankhead singed the stage at the State Theater in 1941 with her performance in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”. Dorothy Parker suggested the title of the award winning play.

Tallulah Bankhead appeared live, onstage at the State Theater in 1941, performing in Lillian Hellman’s brand new play “The Little Foxes”. Other performances in North Carolina were given in Durham and Asheville.

The opening of the Winston Theater in 1949 became the State’s death knell. It closed in 1952. In 1956 it was reopened as the State Furniture Company. Demolished for a parking deck in the early 1970s.

1919 – Lafayette

The Lafayette Theater opened in 1919 at 108 East Fourth Street. It closed in 1926 and remained dark for a decade, reopening in October, 1936. Closed for renovations in 1965 and never reopened.

1924 – Lincoln

Lincoln, mid-1960s

The Lincoln Theater opened April 17, 1924 at 311 North Church Street. Closed 1966.

1929 – Carolina

 

The first arrivals in the balcony at the new Carolina Theater on January 14, 1929, looked down upon this spectacular view. Below is the centerpiece goddess, ripped untimely from the proscenium in the early 1980s.

 

The Carolina Theater opened January 14, 1929 at 405 West Fourth Street. In the early 20th century, Twin City boosters adopted the slogan “50/15” which meant 50,000 population by 1915. That did not quite happen, but the 1920 US census showed Winston-Salem as the most populous city in North Carolina, with a bit over 47,000 residents. By 1926, the population had increased to 76,000, inspiring all kinds of big plans, among them the widening and glorification of West Fourth Street from Main Street all the way to the West End. One scheme showed a “Great White Way”, with half a dozen tall buildings strategically lit to attract maximum attention. One of the important units of that plan was to be a huge apartment building over a the grandest theater in the South. There was a lot of talk, but not much action. Then Lon Bolich, a recent graduate of Trinity College (later Duke) took the reins. He went off on his own to New York and entered into negotiations with major theater chains. When he returned, he had all but a signed and sealed agreement with the Saenger Theaters (later Publix/Saenger) to encourage the project. The Carolina Apartments and Theater would become the first million dollar building in the Twin City, nipping in a few months ahead of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s grand office building at the corner of Main and Fourth Streets.

Note the Belgian block paving on Fourth Street…Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

 

Many theaters had Saturday morning “kiddie shows”…the Carolina had one of the best known and longest running, starring the irrepressible Dick Bennick…

Without question, the biggest event in Carolina history was the arrival of Elvis Presley, live on the stage, on February 16, 1956. Three shows in one day, standing room only, maybe 9,000 people in all, most of them screaming teenaged girls. When anyone else was on stage, all the others were down in the Green Room. But when Elvis came up, all the other bands were crowded in the wings, watching. Only one person, the legendary Roy Thompson, was up to the task of covering the event. Roy might have been a bit bemused, but he got the point…there is a new sheriff in town.

Nine months later, Elvis was back in town, this time on the Carolina’s big screen in his first movie, “Love Me Tender”, just in time for the annual Christmas parade. The color guard in the picture is that of the John W. Hanes High School.

Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

The unfortunate timing of the 1929 stock market crash managed to kill the apartment part of the deal, but the developers smoothly transitioned to a hotel plan, which worked reasonably well for the next 30 or so years. The theater, of course, became a huge success. It would flourish until a few years before its closing on August 7, 1975. Fittingly, the last movie shown was “The Exorcist”.

1937 – Forsyth

The Forsyth Theater opened January 13, 1937 at 417 West Fourth Street, just two doors west of the Carolina. It closed February 19, 1955.

1949 – Winston

The Winston Theater opened April 13, 1949. After a brief closing in the 1970s, it reopened as a “Dollar Theater” in 1978. Closed 1981.

1976 – Mall Cinema

The Mall Cinema opened April 16, 1976 at 423 North Trade Street on the newly created Trade Street Mall. It showed mostly XXX flicks, but also showed films like Lina Wertmuller’s “All Screwed Up”.

1983 – Stevens Center

The Stevens Center opened April 22, 1983, replacing the former Carolina Theater.

“West Side Story”

2010 – a/perture cinema

In January 2010, Lawren Desai, with a little help from her friends, opened the first serious new theater in downtown Winston-Salem in over half a century. Beginning as a two screen house, a/perture cinema quickly established itself as the home church of independent, foreign, documentary, local and festival films in the Twin City. Three years later, a/perture expanded to a four screen venue. In 2016, Downtown Winston-Salem Community Cinema, a non-profit, assumed operation of the house, ensuring that a/perture will be with us for many years to come.

 

SUBURBAN THEATERS

1929 – Strand / Broadway

The Strand Theater opened in 1929 at 1919 Waughtown Street. Became Broadway in 1931, at which point the street had been renumbered, so was located at 621 Waughtown.

1945 – Ardmore

The Ardmore Theater opened August 10, 1945 at 120-122 South Hawthorne Road. It did not last long, closing in 1947. The building became the first Ardmore Post Office.

1965 – Parkway

The Parkway Theater opened at Parkway Plaza Shopping Center in 1965.

1967 – Reynolda

The Reynolda Theater opened across from Reynolda Manor Shopping Center in 1967. Became Reynolda Triple 1986. Now the Reynolda Branch of the Forsyth County Public Library.

1968 – Ritz

Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

The Ritz Theater opened March 10, 1968 at 2014 Greenway Avenue. Closed almost immediately, soon reopened, then closed almost immediately. The building is still standing, barely, with a Ritz sign on it.

1969 – Thruway

The Thruway Theater opened February 20, 1969 at Thruway Shopping Center. Became Thruway 1 & 2 1970.

1973 – Club Haven

The Club Haven Cinema opened October 10, 1973. Closed 1977.

 

1974 – University Plaza 1 & 2

The University Plaza Theater 1 & 2 opened December 27, 1974. Later became a dollar theater. Closed.

1976 – Hanes Mall I, II, III & IV

The Hanes Mall Cinema I, II, II & IV opened December 22, 1976 at Hanes Mall. Closed.

1977 – Parkview 1 & 2

The Parkview 1& 2 Theater opened in 1977 at Parkview Shopping Center on Waughtown Street. Closed.

1984 – Pine Brook Cinema Pub

The Pine Brook Cinema Pub opened June 8, 1984. It closed in August, 1989 and reopened October 13, 1989. Closed.

1985 – Marketplace Cinema 6

The Marketplace Cinema 6 opened May 31, 1985 at the Marketplace Mall on Peter’s Creek Parkway.

1987 – North Point 5

The North Point 5 opened September 25, 1987 on North Point Drive near University Parkway. For many years it was one of the few local theaters showing high quality films.

1989 – University Cinemas

The University Cinemas opened on November 17, 1989 in the strip center on North Point Drive at University Parkway. Closed.

1993 — Carmike Cinemas 10
Carmike Cinemas 10 opened on December 10, 1993 at 3640 Reynolda Road. In April, 2017 it will become AMC Classic Winston-Salem.
1997 — Carmike Wynnsong Cinemas 12
Carmike Wynnsong Cinemas 12 opened on May 9, 1997 at 1501 Hanes Mall Boulevard, replacing the Hanes Mall and Thruway theaters. In April, 2017 it will become the AMC Hanes 12.
1997 — Ace
The Ace Exhibition Complex began in 1997 on the campus of the North Carolina School of the Arts. The flatiron buildings contain three theaters capable of showing virtually any kind of moving pictures.
2006 — Winston Grand Stadium 18 & IMAX
The Winston Grand Stadium 18 & IMAX opened on July 3, 2006 at 5601 University Parkway.

 

DRIVE-INS

1947 – Winston-Salem

The Winston-Salem Drive-in, first in the Twin City, opened October 8, 1947. Closed 1984.

Fibber McGhee drives his streamliner at the Winston-Salem Drive-in. His daughter Karen is sitting in front of him. He called his hamburgers “steakburgers” and they were delivered right to your car. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection

1949 – Skyview

The Skyview Drive-in opened April 9, 1949. On December 15, 1967 it became the Thunderbird.

1949 – Walkertown / Bel Air

The Walkertown Drive-in opened April 15, 1949. Became the Bel-Air, March 22, 1956.

Bel Air today, waiting for someone to come along…

1949 – Flamingo

The Flamingo Drive-in opened August 3, 1949. And here is a dirty little secret. Anybody who tells you that they saw “Dr. No” at the Winston or the Carolina is indulging in FAKE NEWS. Our two first run theaters could not squeeze James Bond’s debut into their busy schedule of mediocre comedies. The “1st RUN” in the ad does not mean “first drive-in run”, it means first run in the Twin City, period. My friends and I saw it at the Flamingo, and then we saw it the next night, and maybe the next, as well. I have zero memory of “Jack the Giant Killer”, although I must have seen it, since we stayed each night for the second showing of “Dr. No”. And yes, it was “HELD OVER!”…they would have held it over for a month if they could have.

1950 – Robin Hood

The Robin Hood Drive-in opened December 14, 1950. Closed November, 1975.

1950 — Moon-Glo

The Moon-Glo Drive-in opened in 1950 on the High Point Road. Apparently, it showed mostly adult oriented movies. It closed around 1952.

1951 – Park Vue / Midway

The Park Vue Drive-in opened March 22, 1951 on Vargrave Street. It was designated as the first local drive-in for black patrons. It closed after one season and reopened April 11, 1952 as the Midway, a white only drive-in.

Winston-Salem Southbound Railway freight on the trestle at the Midway Drive-in Theater, April 27, 1957

Outlying Theaters

1927 — Princess Theater, Mocksville

Opened at 143 North Main Street, Mocksville, NC in April, 1927. Closed 1963.

1934 — Pickfair / Justice, Kernersville

The Pickfair Theater opened in 1934 at 148 North Main Street in Kernersville, NC. Name changed to Justice Theater in the 1940s. Closed in the 1960s.

c 1940 — Yadkinville Theater

131 West Main Street, Yadkinville, NC

1940s Palmetto Theater, King

Opened at 222 South Main Street, King, NC. One of many theaters nationwide housed in Quonset Huts or Butler Buildings. Independently operated. Closed 1956.

Palmetto in King was one of many Quonset Hut / Butler Building theaters in the post World War II era.

Pre-1950 King Drive-in Theater

Opened at 703 East King Street in King, NC, operated by D.E. Gwynn of Eden Theaters, Leaksville, NC. Had a stage for musical acts. Capacity 224 cars. Closed in the 1970s. Replaced by a Sheetz Convenience Store.

1950 — Welcome Drive-in

The Welcome Drive-in opened on September 2, 1950 at 4321 Old US 52 in Welcome, NC. Capacity was 175 cars.

Pre – 1955 — East Bend Drive-in

On NC Highway 67 east of East Bend in Yadkin County, at Speedway Road. At some later point, became East Bend Dragstrip for a while.

East Bend Drive-in, October, 2016. The angled wall at left is where the sign was. At the center, the crumbling screen clings to life. The box office appears to be in fairly decent shape…projection booth and concession stand at right.

Pre-1955 — Starlite Drive-in

Opened at 1024 East Mountain Street in Kernersville, NC, operated by Spud Stocker. Soon thereafter acquired by Fibber McGee. Operated into the 1960s.

Pre-1955 — Yadkinville Drive-in

832 Old US Highway 421, Yadkinville, NC

1955 — Bright Leaf Drive-in

Opened in Mt. Airy in 1955 on US 52 North, now 150 Andy Griffith Parkway North. Capacity 200 cars.

1950    Grand opening of original drive-in
1953    Drive-In closes and is torn down for new U.S. 52 highway
1954    Mount Airy News indicates plans to rebuild the Bright Leaf
1955    Newly built drive-in opens on another stretch of U.S. 52
2004    Last year of first-run operation
2005    Former owner Don Davis dies, age 69
2005    New owners Dwayne and Hope Hemrick reopen the drive-in
2007    Drive-in speakers are removed from the lot
2010    Final night of operation

Bright Leaf today

1957 — Midway Drive-in, Thomasville, NC

Opened by Consolidated Theaters in 1957 at 1418 National Highway in Thomasville, NC. Bought in the mid-1970s by Jack Malphurs. Closed 1989.

Early 1990s Countryside Cinema, Kernersville

The Countryside Cinema opened in the early 1990s at 631 North Main Street in Kernersville, NC. Originally three screens, expanded to four.

Still Open Drive-in Theaters

The nearest still open drive-in theater to Winston-Salem is in Eden, NC. The Eden Drive-in Theater opened in 1949 at 106 Fireman Club Road with a capacity of 200 cars. After closing for a decade or so, it reopened and remains so to now. It is a fully equipped digital drive-in…no speakers…you receive the sound via your car radio. The independent owners also operate the local four-plex, another theater in Reidsville and a double drive-in in Albemarle, NC. There are three other drive-in theaters still operating in North Carolina, and plans for maybe two new ones.

Eden Drive-in Theater, Eden, NC

Eden is an interesting town which did not exist until 1967. In that year, three former textile mill towns, Leaksville, Draper and Spray combined to incorporate as Eden. The current population is about 16,000. Even so, Eden appears to be something of a theater hotbed, with a still open walk-in theater in addition to the drive-in and four much earlier now closed theaters.

The Carmike Kingsway 4 opened in the 1990s at 258 West Kings Highway in Eden. It closed in 2008, but was reopened by independent operators in 2009 as the Kingsway Theater.

In 1936, the Draper YMCA opened a public theater on Mill Street. It later passed into private hands and was operated into the 1950s as the Balmar, named for its owners, Ballard Bertram Martin, Sr. and Jr. The Martins also operated the Boulevard Theater, which opened in Leaksville around 1940. They might have owned the Colonial, which was also in Leaksville in the 1940s. The Grand, on The Boulevard, also opened in the 1940s. It apparently closed sometime in the 1960s.

The Balmar today, Eden, NC

Eden is about 50 miles (a bit over an hour’s drive) northeast of Winston-Salem in Rockingham County, NC via US 158 East/US 311 North. Should anyone wish to have a drive-in movie experience, the Eden Drive-in Theater website is here: http://www.edendrivein.com/

The Grand, on the Boulevard, was another Eden theater

 

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