Larry Irwin remembers when matinee movies went from 10 cents to 15 at the Reeves Theater.
“That was an outrage, we thought it was too much inflation,” said the Elk Pharmacy owner with a laugh. “We would go on Saturday afternoons and see a cartoon and a Flash Gordon short along with the movie. I usually saw westerns.”
As the community works to raise money to restore the Reeves with concerts and car cruises, others remember the theater in its heyday.
Built in 1941, the Reeves was the last of Elkin’s main three theaters to close nearly 40 years later. The first movie to show at the theater was “Affectionately Yours,” a romantic comedy starring Dennis Morgan, Merle Oberon and Rita Hayworth.
When the theater opened, a special supplement ran in the Tribune, profiling the architecture of the building down to the projectionists that would be working there, said local historian, Jason Couch.
One of the Reeve’s projectionists, Garland Morrison, was the projectionist in 1927 for the first film with sound shown in Elkin at the Lyric Theater.
Morrison wasn’t sure what the first talkie in Elkin was, but believes it was Al Jolson in the “Jazz Singer,” according to a Jan. 2, 1974 issue of the Tribune.
Along with cinema entertainment, the Reeves brought Elkin’s first armed robbery. An unknown man entered the theater while, while the June Haver film “I’ll Get By” was being show. Ironically, while police were on the scene investigating, the Reeves was advertising the upcoming film-“The Big Jewel Robbery,” according to a Nov. 23, 1950 issue of the Tribune.
Gun slinger Lash LaRoue and Charlotte television star Fred Kirby would visit the Reeves and show the “Little Rascals.”
“Fred Kirby had a theme song he would sing before he showed the films,” Irwin said.
Paulette Gregory remembers being able to see the “Ten Commandments” in Elkin. The Charlton Heston religious epic was a big deal for the community.
“There were so many people wanting to see ‘The Ten Commandments’ that they would show one reel at the Reeves and, once it finished, take it to the State Theater,” Irwin said. “They probably did that for a week.”
Hilda Combs said the Reeves is where her friends would frequently go and pull pranks together. She remembers when one of her male friends was kicked out for throwing popcorn.
“Once Holly Neaves and I were dared to run across the stage while the movie was playing, Combs said. “Everyone told us no one would recognize us. So we went up, held hands and ran across the stage. I’m pretty sure everyone knew it was us.”
The 1970s also brought controversy to the Reeves when local churches banned the horror film “The Exorcist” in 1974. The Reeves switched movies with the Valley Drive-In in Jonesville, which was also under protest for showing R and X rated films, according to an Aug. 12, 1988 issue of the Tribune.
The theater went through several renovations and name changes before it closed.
In 1978, the Reeves was renovated into two theaters: one theater in the balcony and a larger theater on the main floor, according to a Feb. 8, 1978, article in the Tribune. The upstairs sat 140 people and 250 downstairs. The name changed from the Reeves to the Elk Twin after the renovations.
“I never did like when they split it into two theaters,” Combs said.
But 10 years after the split, the theater closed on Aug. 25, 1988, according to an article published in the Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988.
“The finger of guilt is being pointed directly at teenager cruisers here on the weekend,” said the 1988 article written by staff reporter Beverly Brock. “The Charlotte based company that owns the Elk Twin, called cruising a ‘nuisance’ and a deterrent to movie-goers.”
The Reeves was the last of Elkin’s main three theaters to close. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the Reeves Restoration Project was formed to help bring an entertainment center back to downtown Elkin.
This summer, the Reeves recently started the “Reeves in the Raw” fundraiser, utilizing the theater as a concert hall to raise money for renovations.
The next event that will be held to raise money is Cruise Downtown Elkin, bringing cruising back to downtown Elkin. The cruises will take place the fourth Saturday of the month starting in June until September. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/cruisedowntownelkin
Reach Jessica Pickens at 835-1513 ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org