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Darlington, SC

There is a rich movie theater history in Darlington. An article written by Mr. Shaler T. Stanley, gives many details on this history from 1909 until 1949. Mr. Stanley relates that the first movie theater in Darlington was called the Bijou. It was opened in 1909, by James E. King and J.F. Byrd. Around 1910, Mr. Percy Fisher, of Florence, bought the Bijou, added mirrors in the lobby and renamed the theater the Mirror Theater.

Around 1912, Mitcheel and Richards, of Bennettsville, opened a movie theater they named The Blue Mouse. This movie theater had a big electric sign that flashed on and off saying, "Mutual Pictures Make Time Fly." A year or so later, this theater was renamed the Alamo Theater. In 1919, the Alamo Theater changed hands and was renamed the Dreamland Theater.

Before 1918, Earl Baxter, publisher of the News and Press, leased the Opera House in the Town Hall and opened as the Liberty Theater. George Hendrickson bought the Liberty Theater from Earl Baxter in 1919. In 1921, Earl Baxter and Bert Prescott opened a theater on Pearl Street, they called The Rex. That same year, a theater chain in North Carolina acquired the lease on the Liberty Theater and changed the name to the Carolina Theater. This operation lasted only a short time and George Hendrickson was offered the lease and resumed operation of the Liberty Theater.

The Liberty Theater in 1936

In 1929, a Western Electric sound system was added to the Liberty Theater. At first, business was brisk. But, as the Great Depression lingered, Hendrickson came close to closing the theater several times.

Wilby-Kincey Theatres bought half interest in the Liberty Theater in 1936, and made major rennovations. They advertised "Practically Everything New - Including the phone number." Business improved steadily. By the time the United States entered World War II, crowds at the Liberty Theater stood an hour to get a ticket. Once in the lobby, they stood another hour to get a seat.

New Entrance and Lobby

Darlington Theater

In 1948, Sam Irvin bought George Hendrickson's share of the Liberty Theater. He immediately began construction of a new theater on Pearl Street. This theater was called the Darlington Theater.

We haven't determined when the Liberty Theater closed. But, it was torn down in January, 1965. We also, haven't found out when the Darlington Theater closed. The building that once house it is now an office space.

We sincerely thank Kay Williamson, Assistant Director of the Darlington County Historical Society, for the thorough research she did on our behalf. Without the help of such dedicated, knowledgeable, local people, our historical materials would be fewer and our personal experiences with this project would not be nearly as rich.

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