The once proud Carolina Theatre on 6th Street in Uptown Charlotte is about to be returned to its former glory by Foundation For The Carolinas. It will be part of a larger project which will also bring a 5-star hotel to the original site. This sleek and modern tower will complement the Theater and show a juxtaposition of old and new.
When it was completed in 1927, the Carolina Theatre was a showplace with decorative plasters and mouldings in addition to wrought iron chandeliers, intricate murals, and exterior balconies. The first performance at the theater was a silent film called “A Kiss in a Taxi”. In addition to movies, the theater also hosted live performances including a memorable one in 1956 when Elvis Pressley himself graced the stage. In the mid-1960’s the theater hosted an epic run of The Sound of Music. It played for almost 400,000 people during that run as people came back again and again to see the movie.
The Carolina Theatre was a segregated theater when it first opened. Patrons of color were not allowed at all in the theater until a trial desegregation started in 1963. Theatergoers of color were initially required to reserve seats in advance, but that requirement was quickly dropped.
Like many theaters of its kind, The Carolina Theatre’s business was hurt when many theaters were built in the suburbs. The year 1978 brought about the demise of the theater with a last showing of Bruce Lee’s “The Fist”. In 1980, the building narrowly escaped a fire. There were a few failed attempts to renovate the building through the years.
In 1982 the building was added to the local historic register. The City of Charlotte bought the Carolina Theatre and the property it sits on in 1986. In 2012, the City deeded the property with the derelict Carolina Theatre to the Foundation For The Carolinas. Construction to restore and renovate the theater began in 2017.
The Carolina Theatre is now part of the Belk Place civic campus and will also house the Foundation For The Carolinas headquarters, the Luski-Gorelick Center for Philanthropy and the Levine Conference Center. The vision for the space is to house civic engagement, arts, and cultural events. Technology will be state of the art to create an immersive experience, deeply rooted in the history of the venue. The main theater will have 950 seats, have a drinks lounge and flexible seating arrangements.
The entire project is projected to cost $51 million for design and construction. Funding has been provided by the Belk Family, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and many private donors.
The 5-star hotel will be built above the lobby of the Carolina Theatre. This hotel will occupy 29 of the 34 floors in the sleek new tower. Guests will enter a landing lobby off East 6th street and will be whisked to the hotel sky lobby on the 28th floor. For a full luxury experience, guests will have access to a rooftop restaurant and bar, 270 sumptuous guest suites, meeting spaces, and a fitness center. The hotel is a joint project from SB&G and Valor Hospitality Partners.