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Movie Theatres of Laurens, SC

The Laurens County Library was very helpful and provided much of the following information regarding the movie theatres of Laurens. We would like to thank the director, William C. Cooper, for the materials so generously provided to us.

The Idle Hour at 107 East Laurens, was listed in the 1917 Laurens City Directory. At that time, A.S. Perry is listed as the manager. In the photogrpah at the right, Mr. Perry is standing on the left.

The sign promotes a "Bale of Cotton Given Away" to the one with the most votes. Each ten cent ticket was worth ten votes, each five cent ticket was worth five votes.

The Idle Hour was on the north side of the square.

Idle Hour (highlighted at left) on old Laurens postcard

Laurens Advertiser
March 14, 1917

Capitol Theatre

Mr. Gus Mason

The Capitol Theatre was opened by Mr. Gus Mason in June 10, 1926. In an article from the Laurens Advertiser dated January 21, 1974, Mr. Mason recalled, "The initial receipts were poor and rather depressing, but business picked up as months passed by. Then the depression hit, and attedance was really off. After the banks re-opened and the mills began production again, people started going to the movies more and more."

During World War Two, business increased. Mr. Mason opened a second movie theatre in Laurens, the Echo Theatre. Each theatre had two showings in the afternoon and two in the evening. Every morning there was a showing at one of the theatres for the people working on certain shifts at the local mills.

The popularity of Drive-Ins and the introduction of television caused attendance to fall off at the Laurens movie houses. Mr. Mason said, "Up until the time that I retired from the motion picture business in 1963, the crowds got smaller and smaller."

Laurens Advertiser - May 15, 1930

Unfortunately, in 1964 the Capitol Theater clsoed it's doors. Then in the late 1990's, Ronnie and Debbie Campbell purchased the building to open a ladies clothing store.

After discovering the historic stage and theater in workable condition, Ronnie was bitten by the renovation bug. He began the arduous task of renovating the Capitol Theater and bringing new life to a grand old building.

In 2004, Ronnie and Debbie opened the Capitol Cafe in the front of the building. With a fifty's theme, the cafe quickly became THE place to get great burgers and ice cream.

Then in October 2006, Ronnie installed a new marquee reminiscent of the original sign for the theater. Finally, in May 2007, Ronnie and Debbie opened the thetaer to first run movies. Now the Capitol Theater and Cafe will once again have an important impact on historic downtown Laurens.

Capitol Theater - 1946
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Capitol Theater - 1958
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Capitol Theater - 2009
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Harlem Theatre

The Harlem Theatre was operated for blacks during segregation. Mr. R.L. Higgins was listed as manager on the advertisement at the right.

Most of the movies advertised "An All-Colored, All-Star Cast." It is interesting to note that, like all movie theatres of the period, the Harlem Theatre offered "Westerns" on Friday and Saturday.

"Underworld" (1937) - Directed by pioneer black filmmaker, Oscar Micheaus, is the story of a young man, graduate of a Southern black college, who becomes a part of the Chicago underworld.

Laurens Advertiser - October 14, 1948

Echo Theatre

Laurens Advertiser

Echo Theatre building in 1997

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