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February 2011

More New Theater History

Our last new post was all about the movie theaters of Varnville, South Carolina. That was prompted by a contact from, Fay Rentz, the granddaughter of Varnville theater pioneer, William Harrell Rentz. This month, we were contacted by Brian Petit, the grandson of Charleston theater pioneer, W. A. Petit, who opened the Elco Theatre on King Street in 1913. We are looking forward to adding more history about this wonderful old movie theater.

In the meantime, the contact from Brian prompted us to dig a bit deeper into the Charleston city directories and newspapers of the period from 1908 to 1931. While we had previously researched these materials, this time we looked with new information in hand. Research is often a matter of following the clues. With new clues, we found new information on several Charleston theaters.

We have just added some Charleston theaters to this site and added new information on other theaters that we had already included. New information can be found on the following theaters:Elco Theatre, Dixieland Theatre, Milo Theatre, and Charleston Theatre. We hope you enjoy these recent additions.

Migrating from website to book

There are many books on the grand movie palaces of major urban areas such as New York and Chicago. There is no book on the movie palaces of South Carolina. Why? South Carolina had no movie palaces. At the peak of the movie palace building boom in 1930, the entire state of South Carolina had a smaller population than the city of Philadelphia*.

What South Carolina did have was a widely dispersed rural population who wanted to enjoy the movies just like everyone else. When the executives of major exhibition companies like Paramount Publix failed to provide luxurious movie palaces, local entrepreneurs stepped up and built small theaters in almost every town across the state. The result is a rich heritage of local movie theater history that is unique and compelling.

The story of South Carolina's movie theaters is not one of famous architects, ornate interiors, cavernous lobbies and grand facades. It is the story of local people with limited resources and big dreams.

The people of South Carolina enjoyed the glory days of Hollywood as much as anyone else in the country.

We look forward to migrating the material on this site into a printed book. We hope to have this project completed later this year. Check back often for updates on this project and on the many movie theaters of South Carolina.

*1930 Census numbers:
Population of South Carolina: 1,738,765
Population of Philadelphia: 1,950,961

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Highlights of Additions

Here are some highlights of the information we added this month.

Elco Theatre

A short tribute to
Mr. A.W. Petit

Milo Theatre Chronology of events as described by
Mr. Albert Sottile

Dixieland Theatre


Charleston Theatre

A short tribute to
Miss Maud Gibbon


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