Bluebird Interior

The BlueBird Theatre in downtown Orangeburg will start screening movies in December.

Movies are coming back to Orangeburg.

Orangeburg's BlueBird Theatre set to reopen: Structural repairs, improvements made at historic theater

When discussions are held among Orangeburg residents about what is the area's biggest desire and want, there is often one subject that typically rises to the top of the list: a local movie theater.

Structure problems close historic Bluebird Theatre

In an effort to meet that demand, the Orangeburg Part-Time Players are bringing movies back to the city with showings at the BlueBird Theatre.

"The Orangeburg community is really, really, really wanting to be able to go to the movies without having to drive to Columbia," theater building manager Randy Etters said. "It will give a sense of community back to Orangeburg, maybe bring some traffic downtown and generate something more positive."

The executive board of the OPTP came up with the idea of movie showings as a way to both maintain the historic BlueBird and to fulfill the local cry for a movie theater.

Etters said while there are already concerts and plays at the theater, a movie outlet is intended to bring a more steady revenue stream.

"Going forward our plan is to have something in the BlueBird every weekend starting in January," he said, explaining how this could be anything from a play, to a movie, to a musical. "For us to sustain the BlueBird, we have to have revenue."

The OPTP has entered into a contract with Swank Motion Pictures, which is handling the distribution and licensing procedures for movie showings. Etters said the company's cost of showing multiple movies a day is about $225.

Swank has provided the OPTP a catalog of movies, which will be selected by the OPTP executive board.

"We don't have the resources to show first-run movies," Etters said. "They will be movies that have been in the box office for about two months, but this will still bring back the theater experience back to Orangeburg."

Movie-goers will experience high definition movies on a 12-feet tall and 20-feet wide movie screen.

Though surround sound will not be present, Etters said the BlueBird has an impressive sound system.

"We can rattle some windows," he said.

Depending on how successful movie showings are and how much revenue is generated, additional monies could be invested into new equipment in the future, Etters said.

There are plans to even open up the balconies at the theater. The balconies have been closed for about 40 years.

Etters said the plan going forward is to sell tickets for about $5 a person per movie.

Concessions such as popcorn, candy and soft drinks will also be provided.

Promotions will be done of each movie before a showing, Etters said.

"They will be all family-friendly stuff," he said, noting there are plans to have double features on Saturday with a variety of different movies, including classic old black-and-white films.

Movie tickets will be able to be purchased online as well as at the box office.

Etters said that in addition to movies, catered showings like dinner theater will also be planned.

Theater has strong ties to community; BlueBird has long history in Orangeburg

Red carpet

premiere showing

Kicking off the BlueBird's movie lineup is a red carpet screening of the award-winning "A Nun's Curse" on Friday, Dec. 13. The movie will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Written and directed by South Carolina filmmaker Tommy Faircloth, "A Nun's Curse" was shot in Orangeburg at the old jail, the "Pink Palace."

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The movie stars horror icon Felissa Rose ("Sleepaway Camp") as Sister Monday; Damian Maffei ("The Strangers: Prey at Night," "Man in the Mask," "Haunt"); Kristi Ray ("Pieces of Talent"); Erika Edwards ("Family Possessions"); and Gunner Willis ("Dollface").

The film follows a group of friends who are forced to seek shelter inside an abandoned prison, where Sister Monday had once been assigned.

Once inside the prison, terrifying childhood memories and family conflict come to the surface for the group, and they are forced to face their fears.

After the screening, a question-and-answer opportunity will be provided with the cast and filmmakers, followed by a screening of the "Making of 'A Nun's Curse'" and a blooper reel.

The movie won "Best Writing in a Feature" at the Nightmares Film Festival held in Ohio earlier this year as well as "Best Feature" at the Reedy Reels Film Festival in Greenville.

All proceeds of the movie will go back to the BlueBird as a donation.

'The Polar Express'

In addition to the movie premiere, the OPTP will also be showing the hit animated holiday film, "The Polar Express." The show will be held the week of Dec. 21-28.

Attendees will also have hot chocolate and Christmas-style treats during the showing.

"The Polar Express" tells the story of a young boy who, on Christmas Eve, sees a mysterious train bound for the North Pole stop outside his window and is invited aboard by its conductor.

The boy joins several other children as they embark on a journey to visit Santa Claus preparing for Christmas.

While show times have not been finalized, Etters said there will most likely be a matinee and evening showing on the weekend and night showings during the weekdays.

He said there are also plans for a special showing where the seats of the theater are removed, allowing attendees to lie on the floor with sleeping bags and pajamas as part of a family-showing event.

Coming full circle

The planned movie showings will bring the BlueBird full circle.

The Bluebird Theatre was originally known as the Edisto Theater. It opened in 1941 as a movie theater. The first showing was Aug. 5, 1941, with Priscilla Lane in “Million Dollar Baby.”

The theater closed in the 1980s and remained unoccupied for around 15 years. Its condition declined.

In December 1996, James Gressette inherited the theater from his grandfather, J.I. Sims, and he gave it to the Part-Time Players.

The Part-Time Players and members of the community helped get the theater in shape so it could reopen.

The theater reopened in May 1998, and the first show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” was performed in June of that year.

The theater is frequently the location for shows performed by both children and adults of the Orangeburg community, as well as students from Claflin and South Carolina State universities.

Earlier this year, the theater was closed for a few months when structural problems were discovered in its roof. The theater closed its doors in April.

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But through the generosity and support of the Orangeburg community, the theater reopened in July.

"This is more so for the community than for the BlueBird and the legacy of the Edisto Theater," Etters said. "We are looking forward."

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.


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