Today, the American Theater celebrates 70 years as an emblem of timeless glamour on Upper King Street – and you’ve got to admit, the lady’s still got it.
Charleston’s premier cinema house first opened its doors on September 19, 1942, a time when moviegoers found respite in pictures on the silver screen amid the palpable backdrop of war. Back then, the medium-sized theater offered 900 seats with a small stage and the day’s state-of-the-art Simplex projectors and RCA sound equipment. War restrictions barred air conditioning, but its ventilated architecture kept audiences cool in spring and summer months.
Adorning its proscenium arch, a golden American Eagle came to symbolize the American Theater’s christening “in honor of servicemen, war workers and Americans all over the nation whose efforts are being bent toward victory over the axis powers.”
Over the next 35 years, the American Theater would see a number of changes before closing in 1977, and while vacancy and disrepair threatened her luster, the spotlight was never truly extinguished. Charles and Celeste Patrick of Patrick Properties, LLC purchased the cinema in 1996, lovingly restoring the original façade and fixtures to their former grandeur and garnering the American Theater its distinction as a National Historic Landmark.
And now? The American Theater’s Art Deco design, glittering marquee and classic Old Hollywood ambiance continue to enchant in one of the most beloved historic venues for events in Charleston.
Just in time for today’s milestone anniversary, we’re thrilled for the American Theater to take center stage in a vintage-inspired shoot by Juliet Elizabeth Photography. Step back in time through the grand ballroom, framed by classic movie posters and handmade milk-glass chandeliers, and remember: it took 70 years to look this good.