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Explore the Carolina Theatre

The Carolina Theatre in Charlotte, NC is an historic American theater built in 1927 as part of Paramount's Publix Theatre chain. The exterior facade was designed by Charlotte's first preeminent architect, C.C. Hook, who also designed the Duke Mansion and Charlotte's historic Greek revival City Hall. The interior, decorated to evoke the illusion of an open air Spanish patio overlooking the azure skies of the Mediterranean, was created by the atmospheric theatre designer R.E. Hall of New York. The young construction company, J.A. Jones, built the theater for the Publix franchise owner, the Cutter family.

The theatre opened with great fanfare on March 7, 1927 and the Charlotte Observer produced a 14 page document commemorating the opening of the theatre. The Observer had many facts and ads congratulating the opening of the theatre the next day. The Carolina was a small movie palace adorned with many of the same type of amenities of some of its larger theatre cousins. Air conditioning was one of the extras that the theatre had to offer its patrons; most people had not even heard of air conditioning at the time. Beautiful “egg & dart” molding, made of plaster adorned the entire ceiling while an eight rank Wurlitzer organ played music to go along with the latest silent film.

Sam Katz was the president of the Publix Theatre Chain at the time. Katz and his associates held the belief that the success of the theatre operation depended on the character of its personel. He felt the most important thing was the courtesy extended to the patron from his staff. Even the cashiers, doormen, and footman were expected to live up to his high expectations. The Publix motto, “One of The Publix Theatres” was a badge of distinction which was recognized by discriminating theatre-goers throughout the US. Many of the finest theatres in the 1920’s and 1930’s were Publix theatres. The Rialto, Paramount, and Rivoli theatres in NY City and the Chicago, Oriental and Tivoli in Chicago were all owned by the Publix chain.

In 1938, the theatre had a major overhaul; the air conditioner was replaced, larger seats installed, new projectors and sound equipment were put in and the murals were replaced. The new murals were put on acoustic tiles to help the patrons hear the new “talkies” with more clarity. The original acoustics were so lively that the dialog could not be easily understood.

Throughout the years, the Carolina Theatre was the focal point for live entertainment in the Charlotte region. Road shows, musicals and other forms of entertainment brought such stars as Bob Hope, Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, Tom Mix, Jimmy Stewart, Ethyl Barrymore, Andy Griffith, Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Frank Sinatra and Elvis.