Orangeburg’s only movie theater officially closed its doors Thursday night after 36 years in operation.
“Today is our last day,” Orangeburg’s Carmike Camelot 4 Manager David Foley said.
Business has been pretty good, Foley said. “I am sure it is a business lease thing.”
“I am hoping someone else gets an interest,” he said.
The last movies to show at the theater were “A Haunted House,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Django.”
Gary Brown was pulling up to the theater Thursday afternoon, trying to get a peak at “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” showtimes, when he heard the news of the closure.
“What? The theater?” Brown said. “That means we will have to go to Columbia. That is incredible.
“Why? We usually use it!”
Brown said he has enjoyed the theater for the past six years, and comes at least once a week to see the latest films.
“It is so convenient,” he said. “It served a good purpose in the community. You could come here and watch a movie and get home in ten minutes. It is sad to see it go. They know the numbers. It is all about business.”
“Why?” Pamela Seabrooks asked in obvious bewilderment.
Seabrooks says she has been coming to the Orangeburg theater since she was a child.
“I am sad that it is leaving,” she said. “I would bring my little nephews and stuff down here and they like to come down here and look at the movies. There is really nothing else for the kids to do.”
Michael Singletary says he went on his first-ever date at the theater. Most recently, the 17-year-old came to see “The Hobbit.”
“It is a great place to hang out. I would like to know why,” he said.
Carmike Cinemas Inc. leased the Columbia Road theater from Melvin Younts, who is a partner in Fountain Inn-based Palmetto Real Estate Trust. Younts and Carmike corporate headquarters did not immediately return calls.
Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Dede Cook expressed her shock at the theater’s closure. Carmike is not a chamber member.
“This is an excellent example of the shop local thing we have talked about to make sure we have the goods and services we are looking for,” she said. “I am sorry it will close. It will be a void.”
The news was surprising because the parking lot was often filled when box office hits arrived, she said.
Cook recalled how she used to go to both the Cinema III at the Orangeburg Mall and later Camelot when it opened up. Cinema III quit showing movies in May 1995.
“We did not travel to Columbia to go to a movie back then,” she said.
Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said the commission has been in discussions with developers about the construction of a new movie theater.
“However, it is not moving as quickly as I would have liked. Given the news of the movie theater closing, this certainly enhances the opportunity,” he said.
Robinson said the Orangeburg market has 65,000 people living within a 10-mile radius and 250,000 within a 30-mile radius.
“This market deserves better theater experiences,” he said. “We have the demographics that support a more quality movie experience.”
Robinson said the free market will prove that Orangeburg is the place to locate.
“In time, the void will be filled,” he said.
Then-Camelot Twin theaters opened in January 1977 at the former Kmart Shopping Center. It was praised by officials at the time for its automated Simplex Five Star projection system.
Ticket prices for afternoon showings at the time were about $1. Officials announced the first movies shown would be “In Search of Noah’s Ark” and “A Star is Born.”
In August 1984, the Twin Theaters became Camelot Four with a $200,000, 5,500-foot addition.
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