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Bennetsville, SC


Carolina Theatre


Cinema just prior to restoration

The Opera House

Built in 1917 as "The Opera House", this theater has a long and rich history. It is located at 106 Clyde Street in Bennetsville.

During its early years, it hosted stage shows, vaudeville, and movies. It was known as the Playhouse Theatre and Garden Theatre in its early days. For much of its life it was the Carolina Theatre.

Frank, a volunteer at the Marlboro Civic Center, remembered going to the Carolina Theater as a child.

"The entrance was recessed and there was a little ticket booth with a door on it. There was some kind of railing along the entrance because we used to cut monkey flips on it while we were waiting to buy tickets. On Saturday, they opened at one o'clock or two. Of course, we were there a half an hour ahead of time to buy our tickets for a few cents."

Bill Kinney, Editor and Publisher of the Marlboro Advocate-Herald, recalled going to the Carolina Theater.

"The only time I could go to the movies was when a bunch of us boys would go. We would go to the Carolina on a Saturday afternoon to see double features like the Westerns and Gangster movies with a cartoon and a newsreel and serial. We'd take a quarter and spend all afternoon. It was ten cents to get in and you could get a five-cent Coca-Cola. We parked our bikes out front without any locks on them."

"Our high school class graduated on the stage of the Carolina Theatre because there was no air conditioning in the school gym where we normally had graduation. Our class got to vote on whether we would graduate in the gym or the theater and we voted for the theater."

In the 1960s, the theater was renamed the Cinema. Its beautiful Beau Arts façade was covered to give the building front a modern look. Like most of the downtown single-screen movie theaters, the Cinema experienced a constant decline in ticket sales over the next two decades.

Frank remembered going into the Cinema. "Most of the time it was freezing cold in there. When you've opened for a movie and you have five people in the building, you can't afford to keep it toasty warm."

In the early 1980s, the Cinema closed. It sat abandoned and deteriorating until a group of local citizens decided to see if it would be possible to restore the theater and put it back into service to the Bennettsville community.

Marlboro Civic Center

On November 19, 1995, the former playhouse and movie theater reopened as the Marlboro Civic Center. 1.3 million dollars was raised to transform the building into a contemporary performance venue.

The Center's Frances Carroll McColl Auditorium seats 320. The facility's stage is 40' by 45'. There is an orchestra pit for 15 musicians, a spacious lobby, dressing rooms, and a 9' Steinway concert grand piano.

The Marlboro Civic Center has had performances by the internationally acclaimed Universal Ballet of Korea, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Moscow Boys Choir, Kremlin Chamber Orchestra and many legendary big bands. The center also hosts town meetings, local amateur theatre, gospel sings, dance recitals, and many School District events.

In 2001, the Marlboro Civic Center Foundation received the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award, the official Governor's Award for the Arts from the South Carolina Arts Commission.

We sincerely appreciate the warm welcome and generous assistance we received from the Center's Executive Director, Karen Lewis. The Marlboro Civic Center is a treasure for the Marlboro County community and for the State of South Carolina.


Marlboro Civic Center


The Lincoln Theater at 120 West Market Street is listed in the 1925 city directory. A 1920 Sanborn map shows the Lincoln Theater on North Liberty Street. Both addresses are correct, however, the entrance to the theater is on North Liberty Street.

The Lincoln Theatre was located at the corner of Liberty and Market Streets in Bennettsville, in an area known as the Gulf. Carolina B. Breeden, a well known African American businessman, owned the theater. Mr. Breeden was born in Marlboro County in 1866. A business partner, Heber Covington, was the theater’s general manager.

When Mr. Breeden died, in 1951, he willed the theater to Henry, Carl and Mamie Crosland. At some point in its history, it became the Palace Theatre. During the 1940s and 1950s, Carl and Henry Crosland ran the theater. Their sister, Mamie Crosland Johnakin sold tickets. Luther Johnakin sold peanuts and candy.


Lincoln Theatre
Later known as the Palace Theatre

In his book, “Rediscovering the Gulf: Bennettsville’s Colored Business District, 1876 – 1976” Jerry T. Kendall interviewed Mark Covington. In the interview, Mr. Covington, who was born in Clio, S.C. in 1923, recalled that boxing matches were held at the Palace theater. Blacks and Whites competed. Blacks and Whites also attended the matches. Whites sat in the balcony and Blacks sat on the ground floor.

The theater was always popular and contributed to the entertainment of local people as well as people from the surrounding farms. On a typical weekend in the 1920s and into the 1940, the streets in the Gulf were crowded with as many as two hundred people. The theater closed sometime in the mid-1950s. Today, the building is occupied by Marlboro Engineering, Inc.


Other Bennettsville Theaters

Princess Theater at 234 East Main Street is listed in the 1925 Bennettsville city directory. It is now Carolina Cleaners.

We also discovered some old movie theater names we had not heard before and continue our research.

Alamo Theater
Pastime Theater
Palmetto Theater on Main Street. The front was painted bright Chinese red with green trim. It had a "pagoda" ticket booth in front.
Red Moon Theater on Marlboro Street.

If you know about any of these theaters, please let us hear from you. Email us.


Carolina Cleaners - formerly the Princess Theatre


October 3, 1952
Marlboro Herald-Democrat
Movie Theater advertisements

The Marlboro Herald-Democrat advertised movie theaters and Drive-Ins for Bennettsville, Clio, McColl, and Cheraw as well as the Hamlet Theatre in Hamlet, North Carolina.

In the advertisement at the left, which appeared on October 3, 1952, The Carolina Theatre claimed to be the "Home of Better Pictures." The movie Son of Paleface was showing on Thursday and Friday, accompanied by the "Latest News." A double feature was offered for Saturday night, accompanied by a serial and a color cartoon. No movie was offered on Sunday. The movie Caribbean was playing on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday's offering was Army Bound. This was the typical schedule for a theater at this time.

On the right is an advertisement from 1966. It seems that the theater was closed on Sunday and Monday. This would not have been unusual at the time. The movie showing on Tuesday and Wednesday was Torn Curtain starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Sean Connery, Joanne Woodward, and Jean Seberg starred in A Fine Madness on Thursday and Friday. Saturday's schedule was a double feature with War Gods of the Deep, also known as The City Under the Sea, starring Vincent Price, and The Rare Breed, starring James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara.


In 1966, the Carolina Theatre was known as the Cinema.

Showing at the Carolina
1952

Showing at the Cinema
1966
   
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