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Wonderland Theatre - Charleston, SC
Wonderland Theatre, Charleston, SC
Wonderland Theatre at far left. Building now houses Banana Republic

Wonderland Theater
253 King Street

On May 18, 1907 the Wonderland Theater opened at 249 King Street. The-owners were Eddie Riddock and William J. Byrnes. They had a series of stereopticon machines in the front of the theater which were operated by inserting a penny. In the rear of the arcade they operated a small theater with about 100 seats.

From an article that appeared in the News and Courier on May 19, 1907 titled "Wonderland A Winner," we are told that it is an "attractive and interesting amusement enterprise opposite Hasell Street." The crowd on opening night filled the theater from the first show until midnight. They were described as a merry, laughing and well pleased throng of ladies and gentlemen. The "cameragraph pictures" were said to be the best ever shown in Charleston and were compared to the Keith and Proctor theater exhibitions in New York and Chicago.

The automatic arcade machines, which numbered seventy-five, "speak for themselves" and "pleased the crowd that surged in and out of the brilliantly lighted place as long as the doors were open."

Riddock and Byrnes had other business interests. They operated a dry goods store located in the Charleston Hotel. Santos Sottile, brother to James and Albert, was manager of the Charleston Hotel. Santos was talking to William Byrnes one day and found out that he and Riddock were interested in selling the Wonderland. Santos let his brothers know and they met with Riddock and Byrnes and arranged to purchase the Wonderland.

Improvements at the Wonderland

March 7, 1908 - "For some time past the business at the Wonderland, 'The Bright Spot on King Street' has severely taxed its accommodations so that the management has decided to reduce the arcade and thereby give all spectators a better chance to see the pictures."

July 6, 1908 - Charlestonians saw their first "Talking Pictures" at the Wonderland Theater. The News and Courier reported this as the latest novelty and described the event.


The Latest Novelty, Moving-Talking Pictures, at Wonderland Excite Wonder and Admiration

The promised novelty was presented on time yesterday at Wonderland when the first of the series of "moving-talking pictures" was started at 2:30 o'clock before a good sized audience. From that hour the crowds kept increasing and last night the pretty little theatre was filled with people at every performance, and many waited outside when finding the place crowded.

The "talking pictures" are the top notch of scientific entertainments at this time-motion photography and reproduction of the human voice, which would have been regarded as supernatural a generation ago, are now brought into harmony, and the scenes, the figures and their every motion are reproduced, and from their lips as they move in song and speech come words and notes. It is without question the most interesting exhibition brought to Charleston in a long time.

The two scenes presented yesterday in the "talking pictures" were from Pagliacci, with Zanetelli, and from The Mikado. In the latter picture five characters appear, dance and sing, the solos being sung by Ko Ko and Nanki Poo, and the others joining in the chorus of the familiar "Flowers That Bloom in the Spring."

To add to the interest Mr. Dick Voigt was heard in standard songs and a regular “moving picture” story complete was shown between the “talking pictures.”

Today the scenes for the "talking pictures" will be changed and, of course, Mr. Voigt will sing other songs, and the motion pictures will be new. The hours will be from 2:30 to 10:30 P.M.

The programme for today will include the "Swing Song," from The Belle of Mayfair, and the chorus, "Come Children to the Fatherland," from The Marsellaise.


Crowds Again at "Wonderland" Enjoy Seeing the Latest Scientific Wonder.

Thousands of people in Charleston are seeing the latest and most wonderful triumph of science, the "talking pictures" at Wonderland this week. A great many who have not been taking in the light and pleasant amusement features of the summer on King street since the weather became rather warm are now visiting Wonderland because of the special interest in these really remarkable and most interesting exhibitions. In presenting the "Swing Song" yesterday, which was the hit of the pretty little opera, The Belle of Mayfair, the management of Wonderland has given their patrons something both charming and wonderful. A more graceful and distinct picture has not been shown and the duet between the two singers was delightful. The "Marsellaise," sung in French by a young patriot surrounded by a crowd of friends, who come forward at the close and warmly congratulate him, was stirring and realistic. The movements of the lady at the piano in the picture were as perfectly in accord with the accompaniment as heard by the audience.

The singing by Mr. Voigt was a pleasant feature of the entertainment yesterday and the regular motion picture, "Enoch Arden," was a fine film, well shown.

News & Courier
July 8,1908


An Attractive Programme of Pictures and Music

The talking pictures at Wonderland are still drawing large crowds. This invention is the latest and most wonderful triumph of science. The song, "Hannah, Open That Door," which was presented yesterday, was certainly a wonderful piece of work. The machine worked perfectly, and from the point of the little theatre a person would imagine that he was listening to the singing of a human being and not to that of a machine.

The singing of Mr. Dick Voigt was pleasant and enjoyed by the large audience. Mr. Voigt has a very sweet tenor voice and it seems to improve daily.

The pictures will start at 2:30 and run until 10:30 P.M."

An article that followed the report of the "Talking Pictures" reveals an interesting event taking place in 1908. The article states that the second Wednesday in July was designated for the reunion of Confederate Veterans. But, "there are fewer members of the camp to answer to roll-call than there were at former gatherings of the men who worthily wore the gray."

Pipe Organ

On October 25, 1909, the Wonderland Theater introduced a novelty to Charleston by installing a large pipe organ.

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