The Big Screen in Rockingham

Rockingham’s first movie house opened in September 1913. Owned and operated by Henry C. Rancke, it was located on Courthouse Square, now Harrington Square, in downtown Rockingham.

Named the Star Theatre, the silent movie house faced the south side of the county courthouse on the Square. It was Richmond County’s second movie theatre with the first one being in Hamlet.

I remember mother telling me of playing the piano in a movie house, recalled the late Kate Rancke Buie, daughter of H. C. Rancke.

Later the Star Theatre was owned by Robert L. McDonald.

Advertisements in issues of the 1916 Rockingham Post-Dispatch gave admission costs of 15 cents and 25 cents.

With the change in times, the Rockingham Opera House – built by T. C. Leak and H. C. Wall – was in the early 1920s converted into the Garden Theatre, featuring silent movies.

The building was located on East Washington Street, between what was then the Pee Dee Bank and today’s Helm’s Jewelry.

H. C. Wall became full owner of the Garden Theatre and on Dec. 16, 1929, the first talking movies were shown in the remodeled and newly-named Richmond Theatre.

Admission was 10 cents for children and 40 cents for adults, except on Saturdays when silent films were shown and the admission was 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults.

The first talking presentation was Movietone Follies of 1929. The following week featured Gloria Swanson in The Trespassers.

The Hamlet Opera House was converted into a movie house in 1933. Hamlet still has hopes of restoring that building on Main Street.

The county'[s first movie house was opened in Hamlet, Feb. 20, 1912. It was named the Amuseu Motion Picture Show and each weekday night showed the latest in motion pictures. The owner was J. C. Nieymer.

On July 5, 1934, Joe Caudell announced plans for a new theatre to be located in the then Bob’s Cleaners building on Washington Square. The building was next to the Rockingham-Post Dispatch building, later Hough Hardware, now Kitchin, Neal, Webb, Webb and Futrell law offices.

The new theatre was to be air-conditioned. The only other air-conditioned building in downtown Rockingham at the time was the Richmond Theatre. Opened in August 1934, the new theatre was named Little Joe’s Theatre on the Square.

On Aug. 24, 1939, that theatre was sold to H. B. Meiselman and renamed the Strand Theatre. He later donated the building to the City of Rockingham which is now the Richmond Community Theatre operated by a volunteer board of directors which produces plays and other events in the building.

Shortly after 1939, H. C. Wall opened the Little Theatre on West Washington Street next to what was then the Greyhound Bus Station, roughly where the Rockingham Hardware Store is today. This area was later included in the Urban Renewal Project.

By the mid-1940s, there were three downtown Rockingham movie houses, two movie theatres in East Rockingham, two drive-in movie facilities and the Hamlet Theatre.

Between the 1940s and 2014 there had been other movie theaters in Richmond County. However, in 2014 there are no movie theaters in Richmond County.

J. Neal Cadieu, Jr.

(This was used in the Richmond County Historical Society publication, Mixed Blessings.)


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