The 10 Best Historic Theaters in North Carolina!

From magnificent halls that have been around since the mid-1800s to quaint theaters that are impeccably maintained, North Carolina is steeped in history when it comes to the performing arts. The historic theaters of the state feature designs that reflect everything from the Spanish style of Hollywood to nonprofit city-owned spaces. Here are the 10 best in North Carolina. 

1. Thalian Hall, Wilmington, NC

One of the oldest theaters in the country, Thalian Hall opened in 1858. Designed by a popular 19th-century theatre architect, John M. Trimble, Thalian Hall is the last-standing of the architect’s work. Today, the theater hosts events from music and ballet to the showing of domestic, independent, and foreign films. The comfortable seats give you brilliant views of the stage. The staff members are warm and inviting, and the experience you will have will be unforgettable. Stop in this historic, beautiful building to see the amazing character it still holds.

2. Sunset Theatre, Asheboro, NC

Opened in early 1930 by Kirby Cox with a design to reflect the Spanish style of Hollywood, the Sunset Theatre was a one of its kind in Asheboro to show only films. This movie house would feature films such as “Excuse My Dust,” “Hot Rod,” “Test Pilot,” and more, during its run. In 1981, Sunset would shut down as a movie house and would be rented two years later for many events. Today, the Sunset Theatre is home to movies, concerts, plays, and more in a retro theatre that offers guests a bit of history, a beautiful venue, and plenty of great shows. 

3. Carolina Theatre, Greensboro, NC

“The Showplace of the Carolinas” opened for business the Halloween of 1927 and has been an iconic source of entertainment ever since. This large space seats 2,200. In its first years, the Carolina Theatre put on live performances and hosted silent films that paired well with the Robert Morton theatre pipe organ. A popular location in Greensboro for movies, business was booming from its opening throughout the next three decades. Today, new, and old films, silent movies, and excellent live performances are easily viewed from the comfortable seats.  

4. Earle Theatre, Mount Airy, NC

Providing the Mount Airy with entertainment since 1938, The Earle Theatre seats 424 for concerts, movies, and presentations. The Earle Theatre was chosen to debut the famous “Gone with the Wind” premiere. The Old-Time Music Heritage Hall would merge with the Earle Theatre in 2011. Today, the location is still used to show movies, live performances, hams, schools shows, and weekly live broadcasts. 

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5. Sunrise Theater, Southern Pines, NC

The Sunrise Theater would convert from a hardware store into a theater in the 1940s, becoming a huge feature to the community. The Sunrise Theater lives today as a thriving source of entertainment to Southern Pines. Every viewer can take a seat and watch independent films, musical concerts, live broadcasts, live community theater performances, and more. 

6. Gem Theatre, Kannapolis, NC

Since opening its doors in 1936, the Gem Theatre of Kannapolis is home to reasonable prices and plenty of movies showings to enjoy. After a fire in 1942, the theatre was rebuilt in 1948 to include a lobby and 916 seats that featured a balcony. Open since it's rebuilding, the Gem is known as one of the oldest single-screen movie theatres that still open today. Today, the Gem Theatre still shows movies at the best prices and with the best seats in the house—making it a perfect night out with your significant other or with the family.  

7. Temple Theatre, Sanford, NC

Originally built and opened by the owner of the Sanford Coca-Cola Bottling in 1925, the Temple Theatre is a fabulous experience for everything entertainment. A National Historic Site as of 1983, the vintage theatre is a gorgeous sight to see. Current day, Carolina’s Center for the Performing Arts is ready to seat you for one of their spectacular events.

8. Carolina Theatre, Durham, NC

The Carolina Theatre of Downtown Durham began in 1926 as the Durham Auditorium, and then the Carolina Theatre three years after its opening. People have always gathered inside the glorious movie house for stage shows, concerts, and movie showings and the fun tradition continues. Sit in the comfortable seats of this classical theater, grab your bucket of buttery popcorn, and experience an excellent show or movie. If you are a lover of history, feel free to ask one of the knowledgeable workers about the theatre, and they will be more than happy to share more information with you! 

9. Carolina Civic Center, Lumberton, NC

Opening the doors in 1928, the Carolina Civic Center offered viewers a selection of silent films and vaudeville performances. As time progresses, the theater continues to be a trinket of the town with amazing live performances and a high-quality environment inside and out. 

10. The Howell Theatre, Smithfield, NC

This quaint theatre tucked in Smithfield offers great ticket prices and phenomenal movies showing on the big screen. Grab a popcorn, nachos, candy, and a drink, take a seat, relax and enjoy the show in the historic theatre that has been serving eager eyes with incredible entertainment since 1935. 

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