Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The End Of The Varsity Theater? Well, not just yet.

If you follow this blog with any frequency you know that I work part-time at the Varsity Theater in my hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Earlier this month the theater's owner, Bruce Stone, told his employees that he would not be renewing the lease come June 1st. Since then many rumors have circulated throughout the Triangle area about the fate of the theater. All that was certain, at that time, was that he was negotiating with potential buyers and the Varsity's last day would be Thursday, May 28th. Now though it looks like he will keep the theater open 1-3 weeks more in hopes of making a smooth transition with a new owner. Whether this happens remains to be seen and I, as well as my co-workers, have been trying to deal with the notion that the Varsity may close - with hope just temporarily but very possibly for good. Here's some links to some local articles about the up-in-the-air situation:
Lights May Dim At Varsity Theater (The Herald Sun - May 26th, 2009) Owner May Sell Iconic Theater (The Chapel Hill News - May 27th, 2009) Varsity Theatre Set To Be Sold But Not Closed (Daily Tar Heel - May 27th, 2009) This is all frustrating and depressing for me and many folks as the theater has been a beloved institution since its birth in 1927. I grew up going to the Varsity. When I was seven years old I saw STAR WARS there in 1977 - a memory I've never forgotten and possibly why that movie keeps coming up on this blog. I attended many movies over the years as it changed hands from a one screen first run movie house to a bargain theater in the early 80's then, after being closed for a bit, re-opened as a art house with 2 screens (the large theater was split in half in 1982). Stone, who founded the Chelsea Theater at Timberlyne Shopping Center roughly 20 years ago, bought the theater in 2000. I got a job at the Varsity in 2004 (the same year I started this blog) and have highly enjoyed working there - seeing many movies and forming many friendships. Like I said before, I thought tomorrow night would be both my final night and the Varsity's but it looks like we both will see a bit more of each other. I, of course, hope that the theater will continue but as so much on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill has changed it may be time to adjust to this major change. I'll keep you posted with what happens as I hear it. If you live in the area you may consider coming to seeing what just could be the last double bill (pictured at the top of this post). It's such a great old school theater with a great atmospheric vibe I know I won't be alone in missing. More later...

8 comments:

emjo said...

Nice article, Dan. Keep us posted.

Ash+Geni said...

That is an awesome old picture! I can't believe you saw Star Wars there, that's so cool. I wish I could see Star Wars on the big screen.

Ash and I had our first real date at the Varsity! We saw The Science of Sleep.

I hope whoever takes it over just lets everything work the same way...keeps the same people, lets things run the same way, is as laid back as Stone, etc.

liz said...

depressing.

Brandon said...

I found this link through IMDb. Sad to hear things have to change, but that is the nature of Franklin St. I lived in CH for a while. When to the Varsity plenty. I also worked for Mr. Stone at the Chelsea and Carolina. My first job was with Foister's Camera, which I think is a Cafe' now. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I too saw Star Wars at the Varsity in '77. I also saw a couple of Dirty Harry movies and some I just can't remember. Growing up in Chapel Hill we always went to the Varsity or the Carolina theatre. The Carolina theatre had the HUGE screen where I saw Bridge Over the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zchivago.

Cbake said...

Saw this on IMDB as well. Terrible news. I hope the new owners keep the theater alive. I miss that place.

Kenji Meadu said...

I've seen so much at that place since I moved to Cary - what a shame. 8 years ago I moved from Baltimore, where the kept trying to shut down The Senator. I hope they can do a fundraiser for The Varsity too, becuase I'd gladly give.

Anonymous said...

I'm just finding out about the possible sale of these two indy theaters. It's probably a good thing, as long as at least one stays open. Some changes need to be made. After about 10 movies at these theaters, I can no longer handle the terrible projection. Both theaters project blown-out, bleached colors (overexposed), unfocused images (closing credits for 'Milk' were unreadable until they scrolled to the very top of the screen, and at the Chelsea there are always sound and alignment problems (subtitles running off screen at yesterdays "Last Emperor" until we yelled at the projectionist who was sitting at the concession stand). Art films require beautiful color and sound. Please ask any new owners to look into this.