News Column

Sunset Theatre: 'Grander than I remember'

September 22, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 22--ASHEBORO -- Not to be cute, but the newly reopened Sunset Theatre received raves reviews Saturday.

"It's beautiful," said Daphne Brady of Asheboro. "They did an excellent job with it."

Brady, who is 87, said she attended movies at the Sunset when she was a girl with her boyfriend (and future husband), George.

"I go way back with it," she said. "I'm really pleased they restored it."

Her daughter, Carole McKenzie, was wowed.

"You know, so often, when you're a child, you don't pay attention and you grow up and you remember things grander than they were -- but this is grander than I remember it."

The doors of the movie house, which originally opened in 1930, had been closed for more than a year while the $1.7 million upgrade was under way. New doors -- with handles in the shape of an "S" and a "T" (for Sunset Theatre) -- were thrown open Friday evening for major donors to get a first look -- and 237 people showed up.

The downtown landmark was open Saturday for anyone to take a free self-guided tour. As of 4:15 p.m., 238 curious folks had already made their way to 234 Sunset Ave. for a walk-through.

The doors will be open again today, from 2-8 p.m., for free tours. And there will be fresh popcorn, also free, for anyone who wants it.

Cerelda Hammer remembers the theater from days gone by, too. She used to live in an apartment house just a few blocks away and often walked to movies at the Sunset.

"I'm just delighted to have something restored that's a part of my childhood because I have such great memories," she said. "I think it's pretty."

Neale and Elaine Kearns of Asheboro paused in the balcony to talk.

"It's wonderful," he said.

"It's really exciting," she said, "to see it being restored back to this quality."

Among those checking out the theater Saturday were a couple of teens who obviously had never seen the Sunset in its heyday, when it was the grandest public place in town.

But Bethany Kidd, 17, and Paul Way, 16, plan to help usher in a new heyday.

Both have put in time with the RSVP Community Theatre and the Randolph Youth Theater Company.

They had not even seen the theater proper yet.

But they had been upstairs to check out the second-floor space that overlooks the new lobby.

"The rehearsal space upstairs -- that is really cool," Kidd said. "Love it. That'll be very, very useful."

Regina Chriscoe was stationed in the old projector room in the balcony, answering questions for visitors. She is cultural program assistant for the city.

The two questions she heard most: Where is the projector -- something to show movies -- something like the two old-fashioned projectors that are on display downstairs? Chriscoe pointed to a tiny box attached to the ceiling above the first few rows of seats in the balcony. And where does that ladder in the corner go? To the roof, she said, so someone can work on mechanical stuff.

"We've had tons of 'oohs' and 'ahhs,'" she said. "We've had people that have never seen it before and are amazed with it and we've had people that haven't seen it since 1940 and were amazed with it and we've had people that saw it just before it closed last summer and were amazed with it."

She said she hopes the turnout to see an empty theater is a good omen for attendance over the next two weeks, when the city will host a series of movies, concerts and more. And they all will be free.

"This coming Friday night is the first live show," Chriscoe said. "I tell everybody, come and tell someone to come."

On Friday, Sept. 27, a bluegrass group named True Grass will play.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The show begins at 7.

An open house will follow from 8-9 p.m.

-- -- --

Other free upcoming events include:

-- Monday, Sept. 23, public open house, 6-7 p.m.; "The Winning Team," 7 p.m.

--Tuesday, Sept. 24, public open house, 6-7 p.m.; "Fort Apache," 7 p.m.

-- Thursday, Sept. 26, public open house, 6-7 p.m.; "Cimarron," 7 p.m.

-- Saturday, Sept. 28, "Gone with the Wind," noon; public open house, 4-6 p.m.; "Gone with the Wind," 7 p.m.

-- Sunday, Sept. 29, concert featuring Saxology, 3 p.m. (saxophone quartet, jazz/swing, classical); public open house, 4-6 p.m.

-- Monday, Sept. 30, concert featuring Zoopendous show chorus, 7 p.m. (women singing barbershop harmony); public open house, 8-9 p.m.

-- Tuesday, Oct. 1, concert with Larry Davis, 7 p.m. (solo guitarist, multiple music genres); public open house, 8-9 p.m.

-- Thursday, Oct. 3, "The Serial Killer's Daughter," 7 p.m. (staged poetry reading presented by RSVP Community Theatre); public open house, 8-9 p.m.

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(c)2013 The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.

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