IRIS THEATRE - Salisbury

Located at 110 North Main Street, the IRIS was Salisbury's first full-time motion picture theatre.
It opened in 1914 and closed in 1929 after fifteen years of operation.

December 14, 1914

June 24, 1927


In 1915, the MAIN opened in the one hundred block of South Main Street. By 1920, the name had been changed to the VICTORY. The theatre operated until Christmas Eve of 1956, when it closed after forty-one years of being in business.

The theatre was forced to temporarily close June 22 - October 7, 1928 due to a major fire.

A second fire occurred in 1947, closing the theatre from January 21 - July 3.

On December 30, 1956, just six days after the theatre ceased operation, the theatre had its third major fire.

(Salisbury Post - December 30, 1956)

Operating as a silent movie theatre for its first fourteen years, the theatre converted to "talking pictures" on March 26, 1929. The first sound film at the theatre was HIS CAPTIVE WOMAN starring Milton Sills and Dorothy Mackaill.

 March 4, 1929

 March 10, 1929

 March 17, 1929

March 25, 1929

New sound system - September 16, 1929

photo of VICTORY THEATRE by Walt Shoaf

The staff of the VICTORY - June 9, 1940

First row (left-to-right): Clyde Hartman, doorman; James Page, usher; Richard Council, popcorn man; L.J. Young, doorman.
Second row (left-to-right): Bill Kesler, projectionist; John Lemley, popcorn man; Robert Frost, janitor; Rosalie Jackson, cashier; Mildred Truesdale, cashier; Sarah Spencer, cashier; Curtis E. Cobb, manager.
Missing when picture was taken - James Mahaley, projectionist and Fleming Woodson, janitor.

Photo above taken either July 3 or 4, 1942. Salisbury's Independence Day Parade.
Shown is the VICTORY THEATRE. The movie playing is KING OF DODGE CITY starring Tex Ritter and Bill Elliott.

the VICTORY in 1951


the VICTORY (at left)

photo submitted by TERRY HOLT


The "Showplace of Salisbury" opened its doors April 20, 1925 with the attraction being CHARLEY'S AUNT starring Sydney Chaplin (he had a more famous sibbling in the movies - half-brother, actually).

In its prime, the CAPITOL was considered one of the top five movie "palaces" in the state of North Carolina. The SALISBURY POST reported at the time of the theatre's opening, that the CAPITOL was made possible by James M. Davis, its sole owner. The first manager was U.K. Rice, who relocated from Winston-Salem. One of the theatre's top attractions was the mammoth Robert Morton organ, designed especially for the theatre and built in Van Nuy's California. All films (they were silent at the time) were accompanied by musical programs by Grant E. Linn, chief organist, and Ruth C. Linn, assistant organist.

The theatre had an original seating capacity of 738, with 200 additional seats in the balcony for non-white patrons, who entered from Church Street. The seats downstairs were leather upholstered with a hat rack underneath. Interior decor was two-tone buff and sepia, with gold trimmings on the ornamental work. The stage was spacious with eleven dressing rooms to accompany even the largest  traveling road shows. The large orchestra pit was conveniently placed. A large electric sign with CAPITOL THEATRE in white letters and a red flash border stood atop the theatre.

June 24, 1927
Just two years after its opening, the CAPITOL was redecorated.

The first theatre in Salisbury to convert to sound movies, the CAPITOL's screen first spoke on October 29, 1928 with the Conrad Nagel feature STATE STREET SADIE.

January 11, 1931
The CAPITOL updated its sound system.

November 20, 1935
The CAPITOL was redecorated once again.

This photograph was taken either Jan. 11 or 12, 1942, when the movie THE CORSICAN BROTHERS played at the Capitol.
Gerry Cabell Spencer was second from left in the photo, and she was waiting with her twin sister, Cherry Cabell Coon, far left. The other children with them were Peggy Parker Lentz (middle), Jimmy Webb and Ray Miller Jr. (far right).
The students were about 14 at the time, and they all attended Boyden High together.
As the photograph showed, the children were taking advantage of the Capitol’s junior admission price of 20 cents, plus tax.
(SALISBURY POST - January 7, 2014) 

The CAPITOL was the first theatre in Rowan County to exhibit 3-D movies when BWANA DEVIL premiered April 25, 1953. Viewers had to wear a pair of glasses to experience the third dimensional effects. Even the movie projectionist had to wear them, to keep the image in proper focus, as illustrated above by Marshall Ramsey.
The 3D craze in movies came and went pretty quickly. Down, but not out, 3D films have made their return in the industry, almost sixty years after their first time around.

The first motion picture filmed in Cinemascope (a wide-screen process) was THE ROBE. And the first Cinemascope film to play in Salisbury / Rowan County was THE ROBE. And it played at the CAPITOL March 16 - 24, 1954.

The CAPITOL was the first theatre in Rowan County to install an air conditioning system (similar to what is used today). The date was June 6, 1956.

In September, 1956, the CAPITOL was extensively redecorated, both the interior and exterior. The original marquee was replaced with the one visible in the photo below. The lobby and auditorium had a make-over. All the flooring and carpeting was replaced. New draperies for the stage and screen area were added. This was the theatre's final cosmetic make-over.

Photographs courtesy of Marion Peter Holt. 

These inside shots of the Capitol Theatre were taken during a summer in the early 1960s before the West Innes Street movie house was integrated. African-American customers were restricted to seats in the balcony. The Capitol played an important role in the civil rights movement in Salisbury. On Feb. 27, 1962, 16 Livingstone College students were denied seats in the white section of the Capitol. After they staged a quiet protest outside of the theater, the students were arrested and spent a night in the county jail. It led to Samuel Duncan, president of Livingstone College, and merchant Wiley Lash, who later would become the first African-American mayor in Salisbury, to sit in the white section of the Capitol for an entire week of shows. “I firmly believe that if a solution can be found for the problem of the moment anywhere in the South, Salisbury is the place,” Duncan said. Other black adults and students were allowed to occupy seats in the white sections of other downtown movie theaters until, at the end of six weeks, theater managers in Salisbury lifted their racial discrimination policies and integrated the local movie houses. The Salisbury History and Art Trail marker next to the Salisbury Post courtyard, where the Capitol Theater once stood, tells the story of the Capitol’s integration.

(SALISBURY POST - January 12, 2014)

Editor’s note: This column by the late Salisbury Post columnist Rose Post first appeared in the SALISBURY POST October 31, 2004.
Ask the Rev. Richard Stewart to name the most memorable days in his life, and he doesn’t hesitate.
“The two days and three nights I spent in jail in Salisbury, North Carolina,” he says.
And last weekend, coming to Salisbury for Livingstone College’s homecoming and to visit his adopted son, the Rev. Reginald Broadnax, dean of Hood Seminary, he realized he had another reason.
He had to tell the story of Feb. 28, 1962.
“I think about it every time I come,” he says.
“But the urgency to talk about it this time is to make sure the history of what happened here is recorded so coming generations will understand the foundations that had to be laid so we can enjoy the society we now have.”
One of those foundations was to make sure the color of a person’s skin wouldn’t dictate where he had to sit in a movie theater.
When Richard Stewart was here in the early ’60s, it did.
That’s why he and 15 other Livingstone College students — and a young man who just happened to be in front of the Capitol Theater in the first block of West Innes Street — spent those two days and three nights in the Rowan County jail.
Now, all these years later, Stewart and others of that group who “broke the law” hope to have a reunion here in February when Livingstone celebrates its annual Founders’ Day, a reunion of the guys who tried to take a stand — or to be more exact, a seat — where they weren’t supposed to stand or sit.
They tried to go into the downstairs theater of the Capitol. That was against the law. Only whites could sit downstairs. Blacks had to sit in the balcony.
They didn’t make it. They got no further than the lobby.
But they did it to say the law had to be changed — and to know for the rest of their lives that they had been part of the nation’s Civil Rights movement that changed the lives of their country’s African-American citizens.
And that’s important.
Important enough to ignore that the only sleep they got in jail was a catnap here and there — “and the food,” Stewart remembers, “was awful!”
But it was doing something, something they felt they had to do.
Beginning with sit-ins
The Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro were in 1960.
Their dean, the Rev. Edgar French, had come from Montgomery, Ala., where he worked with Martin Luther King.
Later there were marches, especially the march from Livingstone to the Square in support of the 1965 Selma March for voting rights in Alabama.
Ironically, Salisbury was competing for the title of All-America City, Stewart remembers, “and some students were questioning whether or not segregation should allow it to be named.”
But he remembers that at the same time, “there was fellowship between Livingstone and Catawba colleges.”
That was a positive.
But segregation was not.
“So eventually we said we were going to try to desegregate the movie theaters … and the plans were laid.”
They came to town, going first to the Center Theater, which is now the Meroney on South Main Street.
“But they turned us away,” he says, “so we came on to the Capitol on West Innes.”
It was Salisbury’s largest theater — and the ticket seller at the Capitol “also turned us away, but we did purchase tickets — one for the colored section, one for the white.”
Four students — Richard Stewart among them — bought tickets and started into the downstairs theater.
Theater manager Paul Phillips, well-known Salisbury civic leader, did what he had to do, Stewart says.
He called the police.
“We’d broken the law,” he says. Not only had four of them bought tickets for the white downstairs area but had actually entered the lobby and got as far as the popcorn machines in the vestibule.
“The police car pulled up, and the policeman told us to get in. Four of us got in. There was room for a fifth student, and a boy was standing on the curb.”
He wasn’t part of the protesting group, “but the cops saw him speaking to us and took him, too.”
And other students came at five-minute intervals.
When the police had arrested 17, counting that non-involved extra, he says, “they finally stopped. They said they had enough.
“And the whole time we were there we sang and prayed.”
In fact, that was how the Salisbury Post’s front page story, headlined “Negro Student Demonstrators are Jailed Here,” started.
“Sixteen Livingstone College students,” an unnamed reporter wrote, “sang and prayed the night through in the county jail following their arrests yesterday afternoon and last night on charges of trespass at the Capitol Theater here.”
The students were put in jail after refusing to accept bond for their release. Police Chief Dave Shuler had offered to release them in the custody of Dr. Sam Duncan, president of the college then. No cash bond was asked. Sixteen of the 17 arrested refused the offer.
The students were scheduled to be tried in county court Thursday.
“These are the first ‘civil rights’ arrests to be made here since the wave of sit-ins started in Greensboro several years ago,” the report said.
“The only previous demonstration by Negroes here came several weeks ago when some Livingstone students marched through town in a general protest against ‘discrimination.’
The newspaper story said Phillips stopped the first five Negro youths, including Richard Stewart, and told them they could not be seated downstairs.
“When they persisted, a velvet theater rope was brought out and placed before the entrance. The youths at no time attempted to push their way into the theater.”
But the police were called, including Capt. H.E. Kesler and Lt. R.C. Kirchin.
Kirchin said they were on private property and acted illegally when they didn’t leave the premises when they were given five minutes to go.
Phillips then got a warrant.
While waiting for their arrests, the students said their action was for “civil rights.”
They denied race relations in Salisbury were “very good,” a statement made by the local ministerial alliance and repeated at an All- America City hearing in Miami Beach, Fla.
And they denied they represented any organized racial or interracial groups.
Neatly dressed and restrained, they waited quietly.
“The principal indication of their emotion came during one period when they began singing, rather well, the Negro Anthem,” the reporter wrote.
Despite the long wait while word of a demonstration spread through the business district, only a few people gathered and no verbal or physical exchanges occurred.
“It was somewhat,” the story continued, “like a play in which everyone had his part down in apple pie order.”
In the meantime, an officer went to the balcony and returned with the tall, blond white youth who had bought a balcony ticket.
It was Max Yoder, 19, of Goshen, Ind., a freshman and probably the first white student ever registered at Livingstone.
Yoder had tried earlier to crack the color line there.
Each time he’d been accompanied by a Livingstone coed, and they’d offered to sit in either the balcony or downstairs, but had been turned back both times. Once they got seated downstairs before management saw them.
About 9:15 p.m. a number of students appeared at the theaters, carrying signs bearing civil rights messages.
County Jailer Charles Herion reported the next morning that there was “little sleep for anyone around the jailhouse” that night.
Among the songs he heard were “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands.”
Several more stories in the paper that day dealt with the incident, and Stewart got copies of them from the microfilm at the Rowan Public Library to take home with him.
History room staffers Deborah Rouse and Vanessa Sterling also made copies for the files, which put it on record — and now this account puts it on the Internet.
One of the other stories in that day’s Post quoted Cameron Jackson, vice president of the student body, who said demonstrations at local theaters would continue.
Another quoted a student who said the proceedings “were just the steps in our struggle and quest for human dignity and equality.”
Another said Livingstone President Sam Duncan didn’t know the sit-in was coming, but he wasn’t surprised.
The theaters, he said, represent a particularly tense area because they create “a terrific psychological block,” since movies are about the only recreational outlet off campus available to students.
“With the desegregation of chain stores, drug stores, several eating establishments, transportation and admission to the services of white churches, Christianity and democracy are being furthered in Salisbury,” he said. “ This represents attempts of students and others to further the process to include movie houses and then should be no surprise.
“ …. I firmly believe,” he concluded, “that if a solution can be found to the problem of the moment, anywhere in the south, Salisbury is the place.”
Another story said the 17 students were to appear before Judge George Burke in county court on Thursday.
“The whole time we were there,” Stewart says, “we sang and prayed. We thought we were making a statement and we felt like something good was going to come out of our having gone to jail …
“Salisbury, at that time, prided itself on good race relations, and we knew they were going to select persons — not us — but prominent people in the African-American community,” he says, to repeat the move.
And he was so right.
Probably less than a month later, Duncan, the late Livingstone president who wasn’t surprised when his students made the first move, and his good friend and prominent black businessman, Wiley Lash, who owned Lash Grocery and was later Salisbury’s first black mayor, went to see a movie at the Capitol Theater.
They bought tickets, went into the “white” theater, sat down and watched the movie.
And they went back the next day. And the next. Reports at the time indicated that they broke the law daily for about a week, even though the movie changed only once.
And those same stories go further.
Wiley Lash let it be known that Duncan couldn’t stay awake, so he spent much of his time poking his friend’s arm, pleading, “Sam! Wake up!”
After that, Richard Stewart says, “things just opened up.”
He’ll never forget that first move the students made — nor Paul Phillips, the manager of the theater.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you guys come back later?’ ” Stewart remembers. “He was a nice man, and he knew it was just a matter of time. But he did his job.”
And in short order, the theaters were open, with no racial restrictions.
The restaurants followed — and Stewart could order a banana split at Woolworth’s.
“I tried to order banana splits before that,” he recalls. The Woolworth counter had a banana split gimmick.
“Behind the counter were balloons and you bought a balloon. They had varying prices on them, and that was the price of your banana split. But they never sold us one …
“But Salisbury was starting to integrate. The city didn’t want negative things to happen. You had the kind of leadership here that worked quietly behind the scenes to get things done … ”
But that’s a long time ago.
“I’m getting older,” he says, and another of those students who spent the night in jail feels the same way he does about coming back to see the progress that has been made.
So they’re working on that Founders’ Day reunion.
“Everybody will be amazed at how much Salisbury has grown and how much things have changed,” he says.
“And some of us,” he says, are planning to come to the Salisbury Post’s parking lot where the Capitol Theater’s lobby and popcorn machine once stood and stand there and reminisce.
“For most of us it was a positive experience. We’re able to say we did our little bit.
“Every man, every woman has to do what they can as they pass through life. Only history can judge their efforts.”
But he sighs.
“I never got to see a movie there,” he says. “They tore it down.”

The CAPITOL THEATRE in the mid-1970s, near the end of its operation. 

 February 28, 1976
The theatre was in operation for fifty-two years.

Inside the CAPITOL, just before demolition.

The CAPITOL THEATRE building comes down - March 19, 1979.


Very interesting how the MERONEY theatre opened in 1905 on South Main Street, went through more name changes than Elizabeth Taylor, and today is known as...the MERONEY.

Known primarily for live performances and touring vaudeville shows, the MERONEY would fill in open dates with movie showings, but not on a regular basis. The theatre was known as the BIJOU, the GRUBB and the COLONIAL and all before 1920.

The THEN PLAYING website begins in 1920 when the theatre was called the STRAND, still primarily a venue for live productions, however, some movie programs were booked until 1929, at which time the theatre went exclusively a "live" theatre. This policy continued until 1935 when the theatre became the STATE and a full-time movie theatre.

After undergoing extensive renovations, the theatre's next name change occurred on January 28, 1952 when the theatre became the CENTER, the name used until May 21, 1982, when the theatre evolved into the TOWNE CINEMAS by adding an additional auditorium upstairs in the old balcony area. The business closed in 1988. The building sat vacant for a short while and was then restored to become the home of PIEDMONT PLAYERS, INC. Back to being called the MERONEY today, the place has had quite a ride.

Did you know the MERONEY hosted both William Howard Taft and William Jennings Bryan?
Each spoke to Salisburians from the MERONEY stage.

the MERONEY in 1905

September 11, 1926

Built by Leroy Meroney and his sister to house the traveling companies which brought entertainment to the South on their annual tours, they later sold the building to Clay Grubb, builder of what is now known as The Plaza (formerly the Wallace Building). The theatre went at auction in 1915 to satify some mortgages and was purchased by C. L. Welch and P. B. Beard. A year or so later, Beard bought out Welch's interest in the property. The theatre was operated for a time by Forsyth Amusement Company. From here, the Publix-Saegner Company (later known as North Carolina Theatres, Inc.) took control. Publix-Saegner also operated the CAPITOL and VICTORY theatres in Salisbury.

After closing for a short time for extensive renovations, the STRAND re-opened as the STATE THEATRE on May 14, 1935. From this point on, the theatre operated as a full-time movie theatre, as opposed to mostly live productions, with movies filling in the gaps between the touring stage shows. The STATE continued to have live stage programs, on occasion, but they always accompanied a movie.

The staff of the STATE THEATRE - May 12, 1940

On the occasion of its fifth anniversary as the STATE THEATRE, the then-staff gathered for a photo.
Kneeling, left to right: Harris Luther, assistant manager and Tommy Gaskey, usher.
Standing, left to right: Blanch Twin, cashier; Ted Ritchie, projectionist; Pete Davis, janitor; Marshal Ramsey, projectionist; James Krider, janitor; Wilson Turner, doorman; Frances Poole, cashier; Oscar Montgomery, manager.

The STATE in 1950, when ownership transferred from Publix-Saegner (North Carolina Theatres, Inc.) to  Everett Enterprises, Inc. (later Stewart-Everett Theatres, Inc.).

In January, 1954, the CENTER added a larger screen to accomodate the new wide-screen processes in the industry.

This bicycle built for four was a hit of the Boyden High School homecoming parade Friday afternoon. The four riders (front to rear) are Susan Scott, Jackie Gentry, Connie McCanless and Jennie McGinnis. The bike was built by Dr. Alan Scott. The movie playing at the Center Theatre was SERGEANT DEAD HEAD starring Frankie Avalon, Deborah Walley and Cesar Romero.
October 16, 1965

After closing April 30 - May 20, 1982, the theatre reopened, now with two screens, and was christened the TOWNE TWIN CINEMAS.

(Billy Watkins photo)

The theatre closed permanently after the performances of September 29, 1988, after nearly seventy years of operation. The two movies shown that day were DIE HARD starring Bruce Willis and HERO AND THE TERROR starring Chuck Norris. 


This building located at 722 W. Horah Street was once the Ritz Theater of Salisbury. It was built around 1948 by Salisburian and businessman, Tragot Lash. Salisbury had three theaters at the time however, all required black patrons to sit in the balcony while viewing movies. Not satisfied with this type of treatment, Mr. Lash built The Ritz to accommodate his community with a facility that would provide enjoyable entertainment without being subjected to segregated seating.

(Thanks to Janine Evans) 


The first of Rowan County towns besides Salisbury to get its own movie theatre, the SPENCER opened December 13, 1937 and was in operation until January 31, 1953. Sixteen years of service.
The premiere attraction was TOPPER starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett.

Located on Fifth Street, the SPENCER THEATRE had a capacity of 498 persons, each patron sitting in upholstered opera-style seats. The auditorium included a stage as well as dressing rooms on each side which were used when road shows came to the railroad town. The projection booth was encased in steel as a matter of safety. The theatre was initially managed by J.W. Mitchell, assisted by G.E. Clarke.

Opening night was attended by Spencer Mayor T.P. Fowl.

A look at the SPENCER THEATRE building today...

October 15, 2015
Brian Davis and Mike Cline did a walk-through of the building which from 1937-1953 housed the SPENCER THEATRE.

Below are photos taken during the walk-through...

A glass brick wall in what was possibly the lobby area.

Believed to be an original light fixture hanging in what was the lobby area. There are eight of them.

The narrow, winding, wooden steps leading up to the projection booth.

Standing in the theatre's auditorium, looking back to the projection booth.

Steps leading up to the stage / screen area at the front of the auditorium.

Original drapes still hanging about ten feet deep into the stage area.

The left side of the stage / screen area.

After the theatre closed, the back portion of the building was torn down and a new back wall constructed, shortening the building for then-future use.

A swatch of the original curtains, which now are very delicate.

Amazingly, 62 1/2 years after the theatre closed, we found two short strips of 35mm film in the otherwise empty projection booth.

One of the pieces of film found is what is called a "date strip," which the projectionist spliced at the head or tail of a movie trailer to let the audience know when that movie would be playing. This one says "SATURDAY."


China Grove, N.C., was next when the GROVE opened its doors in 1938 and served the community until October 10, 1955, when its seventeen years of operation ended. It was located on North Main Street across from the China Grove Roller Mill and next to Wagner Chevrolet. The building still stands.


Rowan County's eastern side was first represented when the ROCKWELL opened September 15, 1941 with the first movie being LADY BE GOOD starring Robert Young and Eleanor Powell, just in time to participate in the industry's booming war years. The average homefront American attended the movies three times weekly during WWII. Except for a short period during the 1950s when the theatre closed, then re-opened under new management, the ROCKWELL remained in operation until May, 1960.

The ROCKWELL THEATRE had 392 tilting seats, including a number of "love seats" which could accomodate two persons, perfect for dating couples.

Located in the Bost Building in the center of town, the theatre was opened by J.W. Mitchell, who had operated the SPENCER THEATRE for four years. He would open the HITCHING POST DRIVE-IN THEATRE in 1948. Ervin W. McCulloch served as assistant manager and projectionist at the time of opening.


April 1, 1946 was no "April Fool's" as this southern Rowan County community's own movie theatre opened with the attraction DOLL FACE with Dennis O'Keefe and Vivian Blaine. The LANDIS marquee burned bright until closing in 1956, a ten-year run.

Waggoner and Sons were in charge of transforming the former Landis garage building into a movie theatre (and they did it in eight weeks). Sam Trincher, manager of the Colonial Theatre in North Kannapolis, was the backer of the 400-seat theatre, along with Bennett Linn, Fred Corriher, Mary L. Linn and Morris Legendre.

Frank Boyd was the manager at the time of the opening. Hearne Rickard was the projectionist.

April 1, 1946


The first outdoor theatre in Rowan County debuted with the May 24, 1948 opening of the SALISBURY DRIVE-IN THEATRE. EASY TO WED starring Esther Williams and Van Johnson attracted patrons to the 400 car capacity showplace which was operated by J.W. Martin and Staley Pinkston. It was located near Avalon Drive in the eastern end of Salisbury.

Expansion of screen to accomodate Cinemascope, June 5, 1954

Closing of SALISBURY DRIVE-IN THEATRE, April 23, 1972


Four miles south of the square in Salisbury, out highway #29, was the site of Rowan County's second drive-in theatre, opening just a little over two months after the SALISBURY DRIVE-IN.

J.W. Mitchell (who had operated the SPENCER THEATRE and the ROCKWELL THEATRE) stated in the Salisbury Post that he was opening the HITCHING POST because he had received an anonymous letter two years earlier from a person suggesting he open a drive-in theatre for "crippled persons who could not attend regular movies."

The theatre had a five hundred car capacity and was built for $65,000. The opening attraction on August 2, 1948, was THE SHOCKING MISS PILGRIM starring Betty Grable and Dick Haymes.

Beginning September 29, 1954 the drive-in's name was changed to the SKYLINE DRIVE-IN THEATRE.

The drive-in was closed January 6 - March 29, 1956 for renovations, then re-opened March 30, 1956 under its original name, the HITCHING POST.

On May 17, 1959, the name again changed, this time to JOE'S DRIVE-IN THEATRE.

In January, 1962, the theatre began mixing in an ADULTS ONLY format into its booking policy, and in September, 1962, went exclusively ADULTS ONLY programming and continued with this policy until it closed for good in September 1989 when Hurricane Hugo destroyed the screen.

Salisbury Post - August 1, 1948

Salisbury Post - August 27, 1950

The HITCHING POST Southerner (serial no. 540) was delivered August 11, 1950. It remained on site until 1995, even though the drive-in theatre closed in September, 1989, when Hurricane Hugo destroyed the movie screen. The current owner of this train lives in Davidson County. He has the train in service on his property on a track (complete with trestle) he installed in his yard. So...the ride goes on.

(Thanks to David Potts for the above information.)


March 30, 1956


Staley Pinkston, one of the partners in the opening of the SALISBURY DRIVE-IN THEATRE in 1948, opened his own drive-in theatre on the other side of Salisbury. Located about three miles out Highway # 601 past Catawba College, Pinkston debuted the 601 DRIVE-IN THEATRE on June 10, 1952. The opening attraction was BELLES ON THEIR TOES starring Jeanne Crain and Myrna Loy.

To get future patrons excited about his new drive-in theatre, Pinkston ran a contest in the SALISBURY POST to name his new theatre. Grand prize was $100.00 in merchandise from various sponsors (see ad above).
The name chosen, the 601 DRIVE-IN THEATRE, was practical but not very inspiring.

Opening night - June 10, 1952

June 11, 1971 re-opening announcement

In 1971, ABC Southeatern Theatres, Inc., operators of the TERRACE THEATRE and CAPITOL THEATRE in Salisbury, took over the management of the 601 DRIVE-IN THEATRE from Staley Pinkston.

Shown above was all that remained of the original 601 / THUNDERBIRD DRIVE-IN THEATRE screen tower. During the night of January 25, 1978, a violent wind storm toppled the aging screen, crashing it to the ground.

The THUNDERBIRD DRIVE-IN THEATRE was closed January 25 - April 11, 1978 during construction of a replacement screen (shown above).

The THUNDERBIRD DRIVE-IN THEATRE would close November 3, 1980, but would reopen May 29, 1981.

January 22, 1982

It closed again November 1, 1987, for good. 

September 16, 1988


Located in Towne Mall, the 598-seat TERRACE THEATRE was the "showplace" of its day. A white structure of modernistic design, it had a triangular front featuring massive concrete pillars, alternating with glass panels. The centered concession stand in the spacious lobby allowed a free flow of traffic to the two auditorium entrances. The film projection was that of ULTRA-VISION, a patented system which allowed every inch of the screen image to be in perfect focus. The ULTRA-VISION  system was given an Academy Award for its technological advances.

Salisbury Mayor Paul Bernhardt cut the ribbon opening night. Russ McIntyre was the master of ceremonies introducing the special guests, who included Miss Salisbury Nancy Carter, Miss Spencer Cindy Miller and local-born actor Sidney Blackmer.

The theatre was dedicated to Paul Phillips Sr., who had managed the CAPITOL THEATRE for many years during its heyday.


 The crowd forms on opening night.


In the projection booth: JIM LLOYD, actor SIDNEY BLACKMER, E. H. GEISSLER, who developed ULTRA-VISION, and PAUL PHILLIPS, long-time Salisbury theatre manager for whom the TERRACE was dedicated.

Opening night V.I.P. Invitation

Dedication of Time Capsule

The Terrace Theatre began a two-screen operation on October 7, 1983. The massive 598-seat auditorium and 40-foot wide screen were destroyed by the building of a wall down the center to accommodate two much smaller screens. The movie going experience patrons had experienced at the TERRACE was over.

The final day of operation for the TERRACE was February 14, 1991. The theatre was in operation just shy of 22 years.


Premiering June 30, 1979, the ROWAN TWIN CINEMAS was the first multi-auditorium movie theatre to be built in Rowan County. Located beside the Rowan Mall, the ROWAN TWIN CINEMAS would later add additional screens to its original two auditoriums.

The third screen was first used April 1, 1983.

The name was changed to SALISBURY MALL CINEMAS on January 1, 1986.

Three more screens were added August 26, 1988, and the name of the theatre became SALISBURY MALL CINEMAS 6.

Since its opening over thirty years ago, the theatre has closed and re-opened several times under different managements.

June 11, 1998

March 2004

Salisbury Mall Cinemas closes

Long known for its $2 movies — more recently increased to $2.50 — the theater at the Salisbury Mall will not reopen, says a notice posted on its doors today.
According to that notice, the main sewer line into the building has backed up repeatedly in the past month, resulting in raw sewage pouring into the building.
The first backup happened July 5.
The owner of the building, New York-based Namdar Realty Group, was notified by phone and again on July 23 with an official notice from an attorney, the notice says.
The sewage has continued to back up into this building and we have had to operate on reduced hours because of this unresolved problem, the notice says.
The sewage last backed up on Friday, according to the notice.
The Landlord has not responded to phone calls or letters, and there is no expectation that there will be any corrective action taken to resolve the sewage problems. So we have no choice but to CLOSE, the notice says.
Dan Kleeburg of Winston-Salem has run the Salisbury Cinemas. He also owns a theater in Winston-Salem.
(SALISBURY POST - November 5, 2013)

TINSELTOWN - Salisbury

SALISBURY POST - June 11, 1998


February 15 - 26, 1920

ALL theatres, schools and churches were ordered CLOSED by the Board of Health because of a widespred influenza epidemic. It was reported by the Salisbury Post that by the end of this epidemic, close to eight hundred citizens of Salisbury and Rowan County had died from the flu.

June 7, 1925

Did you know that the SALISBURY POST once made a motion picture for public exhibition?
Shooting locations included the Salisbury Country Club, the Norwood home with interior scenes filmed on the CAPITOL THEATRE stage.

 Above is the crowd which witnessed the filming of the famous wreck scene in SALISBURY'S HERO, the two-reel comedy which will be shown at the CAPITOL THEATRE under the auspices of theSALISBURY POST.
 Above is the arrival of baby Ethel in Salisbury, the cause of all the Henpeck family's troubles in SALISBURY'S HERO.
 Above is a scene showing several of the leading cast members at work on the CAPITOL THEATRE stage filming one of the interior scenes.

A couple of years ago, Salisbury went bonkers when George Clooney and Renee Zellweger came here to shoot scenes for the movie “Leatherheads.”
Zellweger bought coffee at the Starbucks drive-through window. Clooney ate lunch at The Wrenn House.
The movie, which included John Krasinski as Clooney’s football rival, used the Salisbury depot and the N.C. Transportation Museum at Spencer Shops as backdrops.
We were in high cotton. Several Rowan Countians landed parts as extras in the movie, which was, sad to say, pretty much a deadhead at the box office.
But the buzz over “Leatherheads” — and the citizenry’s participation in its shooting — pales in comparison to the first movie ever shot in Salisbury.
In 1925, Hollywood director Don Newland came to town much like Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” and promised to make local citizens and city landmarks the stars of a two-reel, silent comedy called “Salisbury’s Hero.”
And he actually pulled if off.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Newland went from city to city on the East Coast and in the Midwest hawking a Hollywood-for-the-masses formula in which he relied entirely on local actors following a tried-and-true script.
The key roles were Baby Ethel, Mr. and Mrs. Henpeck, the hero and the rival. The most dramatic scene — townspeople were encouraged to come see it — always was a head-on car crash after a big chase through town.
The crash allowed people to see Hollywood’s “trick photography” at work.
The head-on collision would start with two cars (always furnished by a local dealership) with their front bumpers touching each other. As the camera started rolling, a smoke bomb would be set off underneath the cars, which would then back away from each other.
Later, when the film was shown in reverse, it looked as though the cars were moving toward each other and the smoky, head-on smashup.
Salisbury’s filmed wreck took place before a large crowd at North Main and Council streets.
No matter where Newland found a receptive city, the shooting took only a few days — five in Salisbury. He then sent the raw film for developing and editing in New York. Often within a week after shooting ended, crowds would flock to a moviehouse to see themselves and familiar local backdrops on the silver screen.
In Salisbury, the final scenes were shot on a Friday in early June 1925. By the following Wednesday, citizens were going to see “Salisbury’s Hero” at the Capitol Theatre, where it was an added attraction to the silent film “Too Many Kisses,” starring Richard Dix.
Hundreds were turned away on the opening day.
“Salisbury’s Hero” ended up having a Wednesday-through-Saturday run at the Capitol. The Salisbury Evening Post gave this account of its popularity:
The newspaper had a vested interest in “Salisbury’s Hero” because it commissioned Newland to make the movie. The Post gave daily front-page updates and teases before, during and after the filming.
Newland always sold his idea to a town’s newspaper first, so he would have the marketing arm he needed to line up his cast members and shamelessly promote the movie.
“ ‘Salisbury’s Hero’ is expected to prove a sensational success as no effort or resource will be spared,” the newspaper trumpeted.
The Post held a contest of sorts to decide who the leading lady of “Salisbury’s Hero” should be. For several days, it ran stories and a separate, clip-out application calling on women to put their names in the pot.
“For many decades the charm of Salisbury women has been the envy of the world,” the Post said on May 26, 1925, “and now it is to be permanently ensnared by the motion picture camera and held ‘official of record.’
“... The offer of leading role in this picture is to the most beautiful and capable young woman in Salisbury carrying with it no obligations.”
Alice Lentz won the lead role of Baby Ethel (who really wasn’t a baby).
Mrs. Walter McCanless was first tabbed to play Mrs. Henpeck, but she was replaced later by Mrs. R.M. West. Mr. Henpeck’s role went to W.B. Strachan. J.E. Younce was the hero (a newspaperman, of course), and Fritz Smith played his rival.
“None of the participants showed the least bit of nervousness and performed with a remarkable degree of initiative and skill for their first appearance before the camera under the Kleig lights,” the Post reported after the shooting on Day 1.
It’s difficult to determine the exact plot of the movie, but apparently things get testier between Mr. and Mrs. Henpeck once “Baby Ethel” arrives and while the men vie for her attention.
While the movie crew was in town, readers learned that “a battery of Kleig lights” capable of 250,000 candlepower of light had been brought in by Newland’s crew.
The director was assisted by cameraman Howard M. Prager and “electrical studio crews.” Interior scenes were shot at a “pocket edition Hollywood studio” set up on the stage of the Capitol Theatre.
People attending 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. showings of regularly scheduled movies also could watch the live filming of scenes for “Salisbury’s Hero” and learn the mysteries of movie-making.
Other settings in Salisbury included the new Boyden High School. One afternoon, Newland incorporated the laying of the school’s cornerstone into the movie.
He used the Salisbury Country Club for a scene with bathing beauties. The Norwood home on Fulton Street also was used, and Newland always made sure to have parts for children.
A “baby show” in the film included mothers with children 5 and under. There also was a scene specifically for children 5 to 12.
Newland was no dummy.
From the newspaper accounts, a car chase scene which ended with the head-on wreck on Main Street, started in Spencer at Rowan Motor Co.
B.I. Young of Rowan Motor Co. starred as one of the drivers in the chase scene as it came south on Salisbury Avenue toward the downtown.
Rowan Motor provided the Nash automobiles for the wreck scene.
In one scene, Strachan as Mr. Henpeck refused to hang upside down from an airplane (on the ground). “Rumor has it,” the Post said, “that W.B. Strachan ... balked at this shot and a member of the Gates Flying Circus, which is in Salisbury for a circus today and Monday ... doubled for him.”
The final scene shot in Salisbury was in the Salisbury Evening Post’s offices.
Sadly, a copy of “Salisbury’s Hero,” which probably became the property of the newspaper, does not survive. The “Hero” movies were made on nitrate film and only two are known to still exist — those from Huntingdon, Pa., and Janesville, Wisc.
In North Carolina, “Hero” movies also were shot in Wilmington and Durham for sure. Reports show that Newland was filming “Wilmington’s Hero” by the end of June 1925.
A native of Battle Creek, Mich., Newland died in 1951 at the age of 55. The resumé he always gave to newspapers citing his movie credentials said he had produced one-reelers with Mary Pickford, James Kirkwood, Flora Finch and John Bunny, and he also was credited with directing comedies for Mack Sennett.
It’s doubtful Newland became rich from his Harold Hill movie-making, but the concept was genius.
Here it is, 86 years later, and he’s being mentioned in the same star-struck breath as George Clooney.

(Mark Wineka - SALISBURY POST - March 12, 2011)

October 5, 1941
Blue Laws in Salisbury and Rowan County were amended, allowing movie theatres to operate on Sundays. Prior to this date, movies were prohibited on the Sabbath. Some of the indoor theatres in Rowan County voluntarily continued not to open on Sundays.

April 28, 1946

The following story as it appeared in the SALISBURY POST.

The theatre was never constructed.

March 12, 1976

The Salisbury Symphony held a fund-raiser at the TERRACE THEATRE in 1976, sponsoring the invitation-only premiere of the movie BARRY LYNDON.

Then WBTV on-air personality Mike McKay served as Master of Ceremonies.



November 18, 1933 - TOM MIX and horse TONY - CAPITOL THEATRE
April 27 - 28, 1946 - MAX TERHUNE and ELMER STATE THEATRE
May 24, 1946 - DUB "Cannonball" TAYLOR STATE THEATRE
July 10, 1947 - ROBERT "Little Beaver" BLAKE STATE THEATRE
September 12, 1947 - TEX RITTER STATE THEATRE
November 22, 1947 - BOB STEELE STATE THEATRE
November 28, 1947 - AL "Fuzzy" ST. JOHN STATE THEATRE
January 9, 1948 - AL "Lash" LA RUE STATE THEATRE
LASH LARUE (third from right) appearing at the STATE THEATRE - January 9, 1948.
June 5, 1948 - RAY "Smoky" WHITLEY STATE THEATRE
November 19, 1948 - TEX RITTER STATE THEATRE
April 26, 1949 - ROY ACUFF - STATE THEATRE
May 18, 1950 - AL "Lash" LA RUE STATE THEATRE
December 1, 1953 - TIM HOLT - VICTORY THEATRE


November 23, 1939 - RALPH "Dick Tracy" BYRD STATE THEATRE
January 5 - 6, 1945 - BOBBY "Dead End Kids" JORDAN STATE THEATRE
January 17, 1947 - THE THREE STOOGES (Larry, Moe, Shemp) STATE THEATRE

March 16 - 17, 1951 - MANTAN MORELAND - RITZ THEATRE


December 20, 1959

Most summers, during the 1970s, the Rowan County Association of Classroom Teachers sponsored a summer series of ten movies held every weekday morning at the TERRACE THEATRE. Children bought a season ticket at their schools. The ticket was good for all ten movies and each school was assigned a specific day each week to attend. Response was always overwhelming. Over 500 children attended every weekday during the summer. The Rowan County ACE received a generous percentage of ticket sales.

The 1977 summer schedule is shown above.