Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Uptown Charlotte gets what it needed

I'd argue that no great city in the world -- certainly none I've visited -- is without a movie theater downtown. (Or, to use Charlotte's snooty term, uptown.) But until last week, we didn't have one.

EpiCentre Theaters provided one from 2008 to 2012, though the programming was unadventurous, the food (in the adjacent Mez) was too expensive for me to buy, and the movie end of the venue seemed like a graveyard on the two occasions I went there. (When you get only eight people in the theater for "Kung Fu Panda 2," then the nation's top-grossing film, you're in trouble.)

Now the space has a new tenant, Studio Movie Grill. My colleague Theoden Janes will talk about his experiences visiting SMG -- which were pretty close to mine -- in Friday's CLT section. The important thing (and one on which we agree) is that SMG seems to be taking movies seriously, rather than making them an adjunct function of food service or night-club atmosphere.

I talked to the Texas-based programmer for SMG at the grand opening last week. She spoke about special events other locations have provided, from curated film series (including classics chosen by local critics) to morning screenings of family-friendly films for children with special needs and their caretakers. (Learn more at

But the most important thing about SMG is simply that it exists. Before last week, uptown residents who wanted to see a movie had to drive for 20 minutes to Phillips Place or Northlake to see mainstream releases. Now they can walk to the Epicentre at Fourth and College streets. (Those of us who drive to SMG get free validated parking.) That could save energy, which is always a boon.

But it also means that one more crucial amenity has made downtown more vibrant. I'm thrilled that we have performance centers, art museums and restaurants of all price ranges within a 15-minute walk of my office at Stonewall and Tryon. I can't wait to walk to a Knights baseball game next year. But until we got a movie theater back, our sparkling downtown could never seem complete.


Mark Caplan said...

We walk from First Ward to the Regal Manor Twin and the Charlotte Film Society venue on Queens Rd. One thing about the Epicentre Theatre and maybe this new one was the extremely unappetizing prospect of sitting next to someone gulping down a full-course dinner while I'm trying to watch a movie.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to trying SMG. However, my favorite theatre will always be the Manor Twin. - It should not be overlooked.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte used to have four theaters downtown, but guess what? They tore them down in the name of progress. The remains of the Carolina are still there, but it'll never achieve its former glory. Then there was the Dilworth Theater on South Boulevard. Guess what? Charlotte tore it down in the name of progress.

The Center Theater at the intersection of Morehead and Kings, and the Plaza Theater on Central Avenue were torn down as well.

There were other Charlotte theaters, but I can't remember their names now. The Visulite, of course. The building's still there.

All the old theaters were real theaters...meaning they were all different, not these cookie-cutter multiplexes you see now.

A theater downtown now? Big whoop.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:11, the Visulite is now a music venue, my favorite smaller venue anywhere actually. Totally agree its a shame that we've lost so many unique theaters though.

Anonymous said...

The old Plaza Theater building is still there also. It is the Wells Fargo Bank. I remember when they started showing porn, as did most of these now defunct theaters (and drive-ins).

TeddyC said...

I have to agree with Mark Caplan.

I go to the theatre to get away from it all for a couple of hours. I don't want to be sitting next to someone having a full course meal. Now what if the person starts laughing and spills the food on or near me. Or, orders some food with a bad smell.

I went to the theatre in the Town of Arlsley a few weeks ago. A couple sat next to me and pulled out chicken wings and I believe buritto's.

Who wants to sit next to that. I don't think theatres should encourage this.

Anonymous said...

SMG is a great place to take a date and I will be trying out the new place this weekend. Hopefully, it WOWS me...It's always fun to try something new.