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The Movie Theatres of Newberry, SC

From interviews with Mr. Harold Miller and Ms. Jane Britt
June 28, 2002

Memories of the Newberry Opera House

Harold Miller, who lives near Newberry, recounted being in the Newberry Opera House many years ago and seeing cowboy movie star Tex Ritter leading his horse up the stairs to the theatre.

“The horse was trained to walk up stairs. They also went to the junior high school and the horse walked up the stairs over there to get on the stage.

I remember seeing movies with Zorro and the Lone Ranger. We came to watch serials on Saturdays. It was always packed with little people on Saturdays because mothers left the kids at the Opera House so they could shop in town. Tickets didn’t cost much because there just wasn’t much money then. I was born in 1924 and started grammar school in 1930 and finished at Newberry High School in 1942.

Mr. Wells ran the Opera House when I was small and then he built his own theatre, the Wells Theatre. We had the Wells and then we had the Ritz Theatre. After a while a drive-in opened on the highway and we enjoyed that until they played out. We watched a lot of movies because that’s the only entertainment we had except in the fall when we had football games.”

To visit the Official Web Site of the Newberry Opera House click below:

Memories of the Ritz Theatre

Jane Britt, a resident of Newberry, took us into the Ritz Theatre and gave us a tour.

“I think these are the original doors but they’ve been moved forward toward the street. I left Newberry when I was twenty, but I remember the gift shop on the side because I registered my silver and china there.”

Jane took us into the auditorium. We stood in the dark while she moved to turn on more lights. With a click, the auditorium was illuminated by Art Deco sconces running the length of the room on either side.

“I told you it would take your breath away. I get such enjoyment out of showing this to people. I get chilly bumps. They are the original fixtures. I think that’s the original carpet too. The theater is 8,610 square feet.

We had 517 little kids in here recently for a children’s performance of Annie. We had about 10 seats left empty. When you stand in the front of the theater it just looks like an ocean of seats.

The pit was there when I was a child but we covered it up because somebody fell in and broke a leg. There are four sconce lights in the balcony but we turned them off since we don’t use the balcony for seating. There is a separate outside entrance to the balcony which was used by blacks in earlier times. Unlike the padded seats downstairs, the balcony seats are plain wood.

The projection equipment is all gone but it still has the fireproof doors in case there was a fire in the projection booth.

One of the prominent black educators in the community brought me some information on the theater. The Miss Black Newberry pageant used to be held here in the sixties.

They did an architectural survey of Newberry in 1979 and the Ritz was not designated as historic because it wasn’t fifty years old at the time. But, a young ambitious fellow who works for the city of Newberry has all the materials I took to him. He’s trying to get us listed on the National Historic Registry. We want to preserve the Art Deco theater. We have an architectural board of review here and I’m sure there won’t be any drastic changes to the exterior of the building.”

Newberry Opera House
Newberry Opera House

Opera House Interior
Interior of Newberry Opera House

 

Ritz Theatre, Newberry, SC, 2002
Ritz Theatre - Newberry, SC

 

Interior of Ritz Theatre
Jane Britt and John Coles
seated in Ritz Theatre

Ritz Theatre, Newberry, SC, 1940
Ritz Theatre - circa 1940

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