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Dr. J.T. Green, Sr.

Carolina Theater
Owners Meeting

Nov. 21, 1953
Charlotte, NC
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The Green/Greene Family


J.T. Green, Jr.

W.F. Greene

J.C. Greene

Dr. John Thompson Green, Sr. built the Playland Theater in Elloree, SC

J.T. Green, Jr., owned or operated these theaters:
Edisto Theater – Branchville
Theater – Branchville (this theater had no name. It was just called “Theater”)
Unnamed Theater (Drive-In) – St. George (Destroyed by Hurricane Gracie, 1959)
Unnamed Theater (Drive-In) – Erhardt
Skyline Drive-In – New Ellenton

William F. Greene (and his wife Dolly)
Williston Theater – Williston
Unnamed Drive-In – Yemasee (built and operated for a couple of years)
South 17 Drive-In - Hardeeville
Unnamed Drive-In – Ridgeland (original owners, John Hubbard & Willie Sauls)

Joseph (Jody) Cannon Greene ran a theater in Johnston



William Harrell Rentz

 

William Harrell Rentz
February 8, 1891 - August 10, 1933
Varnville, South Carolina

William Harrell Rentz opened the VACO Theatre, the first movie theater in Varnville, South Carolina, in 1915. In 1917, a fire destroyed a section of downtown Varnville, including the movie theater. Mr. Rentz provided continued film screenings in an outdoor setting until he could open another theater. He opened the Strand Theatre in 1919. A Clemson graduate with a degree in Civil Engineering, Mr. Rentz was a friend and mentor to Gerald Meeks, who took over theater operations in 1924. The 1921 edition of The Julius Cahn - Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory states that Mr. Rentz also managed the Pastime Theatre in Allendale, South Carolina.


D. Ireland Thomas

 

Damon Ireland Thomas
Charleston, South Carolina

D. Ireland Thomas ran the Lincoln Theater in Charleston beginning in the early 1920's. He was born in 1875, near New Orleans. In 1900, he managed the Bijou Theater in Tampa, Florida. By 1904, He was managing a tent show for entertainment entrepreneur, Patrick H. Chappelle.

In 1916, Mr. Thomas was the New Orleans District manager for the Lincoln Motion Picture Company's national film distribution organization.

In 1919, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Harry Gant co-directed "A Man's Duty" for the Lincoln Motion Picture Company. For much of the early 1920's Mr. Thomas wrote a weekly column on motion pictures for the Chicago Defender, a leading national African American newspaper. Mr. Thomas helped organize the Theater Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.), an African American vaudeville circuit. He was very committed to the community. He donated land for a new fire station and for a school.


T. Lee Little

 

T. Lee Little
Camden, South Carolina

In the 1900's, before getting into motion picture exhibition, Mr. Little brought fair attractions and carnivals to Camden. He booked "live" shows into the Opera House. He booked the motion picture "Birth of a Nation" into the Opera House as a special attraction with accompaniment of a full orchestra.

One of the South's pioneer exhibitors, Mr. Little began operating his Majestic Theater in Camden on April 7, 1915. He opened the 1,000-seat Little Theater in 1948 to replace the Majestic. He also operated the Haigler Theater and the Sky-Vue Drive-In. An artice published in the Camden Chronicle in 1955, states, "Few exhibitors can claim such a lengthy career. In the whole of South Carolina, only "old-timers," Lee Little [of Camden] and Albert Sottile of Charleston, have remained independent exhibitors against the inroads of the chains and the ravages of time and fortune."


Albert Sottile
1880 - 1960

 

 

Albert Sottile
Charleston, South Carolina

Born in Sicily in 1880, Albert Sottile came to Charleston in 1891. "I came here because my older brother had already found Charleston and found it to be a good place for a young man to get along in the world."

In 1908, relations between the three groups showing movies in Charleston, according to Albert, "was bitter and unfriendly and it developed into a fight of extermination. Gradually, as they all became satisfied that they were playing a losing game, a spirit of trying to get together to solve their problem developed among them and at this juncture, I was invited to sit in with them, in the capacity of a mutual friend and ways and means of forming a merger were the subject of discussion." Pastime Amusement Company was formed to consolidate all the theaters in Charleston. According to Sottile, "In compliance to the urgent demands made by all interested parties, I became its first president."

Albert Sottile served as president of Pastime Amusement Company until his death in 1960.


Malcolm Samuel Suggs

 

 

Malcolm Samuel Suggs
Columbia, South Carolina

Before moving to South Carolina in 1937, Sam Suggs managed movie theaters in Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia. He was City Manager of the seven Columbia Theatres (Palmetto, Ritz, Strand, Carolina, 5 Points, Star-Lite Drive-In and later the Richland Mall) in the Wilby-Kincey Theatre Chain, which was based in Charlotte, NC. He became Distric Manager of the Palmetto Theater Company after the retirement of Warren Irvin in the late 1960s. Mr. Irvin described Mr. Suggs as "one of the finest theater men in the South."

Describing the qualities of a good theater manager, Suggs said, "He's got to have the ability to feel the pulse of the theater-going public and know what it likes. In other words, he's got to keep forever young. If he doesn't, he will get behind the times."

Sam Suggs retired in 1974, after spending 47 years in the film industry. He saw motion pictures evolve from the silent era, through the "talkies" and from black and white to wide-screen technicolor.


Francis B. Kerr

 

 

Francis B. Kerr
Charleston, South Carolina

Many Charlestonians remember him as the manager of the Palace Theatre at 566 King Street. During the 1940's and 1950's he carried on the movie traditions, started by his father Basil R. Kerr, who opened the Palace Theatre in 1931 as a combination vaudeville and movie theater. Francis Kerr once said, "During the Great Depression, people found it cheaper to spend hours in the theater than to go home and heat their homes. So, in actuality, we were their home-away-from-home."

When a theater admission tax was required in 1955, Francis Kerr reduced the 10 cent price of tickets for children to 9 cents, so they wouldn't have to pay the extra penny to see the Saturday Westerns, cartoons, and serials.

While Hollywood was designing "Cinemascope" in 1955, Francis and his father came out with their own three-dimensional screen, which they patented. The Palace Theatre closed in 1957 and was torn down in 1968.


Harry Osteen
1915 - 2008

 

Harry Osteen
Anderson, South Carolina

Harry Osteen, Sr. was not only a theater owner, but a theater historian as well. He produced a DVD called, "The History of Theaters in Anderson, S.C." which he narrated. His father, Mr. P.C. Osteen operated several theaters in Anderson that showed motion pictures and staged Vaudeville performances. Between 1946 and 1974, Harry, along with his brothers Percy, Bill, and Albert, opened a series of movie theaters in Anderson.


George S. Brantley's headstone at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston

 

George S. Brantley and Florence Brantley
Charleston, South Carolina

George Brantley and his wife Florence opened the first movie theater, The Theatorium, at 321 King Street in Charleston, in 1907. He leased the space on the ground level of the old American Hotel. They bought 114 kitchen chairs, which George nailed together into rows of seats. They covered some boards with cheesecloth and hung it for the screen. George built a small ticket booth and painted a sign that read, "Theatorium." Florence suggested he put a phonograph with a large horn on top of the ticket booth to attract attention.

A newspaper account stated, "Here you will see some of the best moving pictures that can be produced on canvas by the most powerful apparatus."

Later that year, he sold The Theatorium and opened the Majestic Theatre and The New Theatorium. With so many theaters in operation, no one was making a profit. In 1908, George joined James and Albert Sottile, John C. Sherrill, and A.T. Jennings to form Pastime Amusement Company.

George became General Manager of all the theaters operated by Pastime Amusement Company. They closed two of the theaters and negotiated better prices from film distributors. The new venture began to show a profit. After a few years, George sold his interest in Pastime Amusement Company and opened White Swan Laundry. He never returned to the theater business. He died in 1936 at the age of fifty-nine. Florence died in 1972.


Gus Mason

 

 

Gus Mason
Laurens, South Carolina

Mr. Gus Mason opened the Capitol Theater in Laurens on June 10, 1926. In 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."

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