Movie Theaters in North Carolina 1896-1930: The Digital Archive

UNC Libraries had a blog post earlier this month about a new exhibit. “Going to the Show” covers information on moviegoing in over 1300 North Carolina venues from 1896 to about 1930. It’s available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/gtts/.

You can do a keyword search, but I found browsing the maps to be more interesting. You can look at a list of cities or browse an interactive map.

There isn’t a Mayberry in North Carolina to look up, so I took a look at Charlotte, which had six overlay maps available, from 1885 to 1911. I chose the 1911 map. You can specify what kind of information you want to see on the map, including locations of theaters and whether or not they were active in the year you’re viewing. In this case I chose to look at theaters active in 1911 and found over a dozen active in Charlotte.

Click on a ticket icon and you’ll get the basic information about the theater (name and address) and if you click on the More Information link, you’ll get a page of data, including who the theater served (African-Americans, Caucasians), performance type (all I saw were movies) and associated people. Sometimes there are additional notes about the operation of the theater.

There are additional pointers to more theater information — sometimes city directories are listed but most of the information comes from newspapers. The newspapers are presented in full-page format with the relevant theater part highlighted. I like that the whole paper is left as one page but keep getting distracted by the other advertisements — ooh look! A sale on straw hats!

As our consumption of media changes almost, it seems, day by day, it’s fascinating to go back and look at the very early days of movies and movie theaters. I am old enough to remember newspapers with pages and pages of large movie ads. It makes me wonder if in 100 years those will look as quaint as — hey! Allan’s Magnetic Cough Syrup!

PS — Interested in the music from Runaway June? Check this out.

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