Save the Date: Help celebrate Eaton Theatre’s 90 years with a ticketed fundraiser event on Saturday, August 28. The celebration will include dinner at Charlotte’s newly renovated Beach Market featuring live music by Roaring Twenties Party Band and the GFWC choir with a 1920’s theme. In addition, an antique car show cruise-in, downtown historical architectural tour, and an Eaton Theatre After-Party Celebration with movies and live entertainment are scheduled. More details on ticket availability and how you can participate in this fundraiser will be announced after Memorial Day.
Cash Beechler lll, grandson of Eaton Theatre founder Cash Beechler, is thrilled with the quality and care of the theatre today and that a community effort is under way to help save the venue. Many theatres from that era have succumbed to the wrecking ball and exist now only in photos.
The 750-seat theatre opened January 7, 1931 and was described as top of the line when it was built. “You were greeted when you came in and you were ushered to a seat, followed by at courteous thank-you when you left the movie”, Beechler said. “I was nine years old and helped out as a candy maker and ticket-taker three to four nights per week at the theatre.”
“Eaton Theatre was the new theatre in town showing early run movies. There was a “B” theatre down the street where Windwalker is now in the old Gambles Store”, Beechler said. “During World War ll, the 750-seat theatre was completely full every night for two showings. Every two weeks I would drive and put cardboard posters of the next two weeks of movies in store windows,” Cash said.
Eaton Theatre has struggled financially during the pandemic and has worked by popping popcorn-to-go, establishing a GoFundMe site, and showing older movies with 15 to 20 in attendance to help pay the bills, but it’s not enough to keep it afloat.
Owner Leann Owen bought the theater in 2018 after managing it for almost 18 years and says she is now stressed every day as they “barely squeak by.” “We are contributing our own money and we just want to break even,” Owen said
Similar to a library or post office, destinations like a movie theater that are unique in a community can generate trips that benefit the entire business district. The theater also attracts customers at concentrated times during hours that might otherwise be unproductive for other businesses.
“The Eaton Theatre is an important business for downtown, because it attracts customers in every demographic group, whether considering age, gender, or income,” said Charlotte Community Development Director Bryan Myrkle.
“The most important factor in the economic success of a traditional downtown is not related to its design or infrastructure. It is the unique variety of businesses and diversity of uses located there. The theatre plays an important role in this dynamic,” Myrkle said. “When people think about the ideal downtown and what sort of things should be there, nearly everyone would include a movie theatre. It’s an amenity that signals the health of the community and attracts interest and investment”.
Promoting the arts has been a primary part of CharlotteRising’s transformation strategy since it was formed, and the Eaton Theatre is one of the primary art-based businesses in the community.