The American Theater

Charleston, South Carolina | C.1942

Photo Credit: John Apsey

In South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the city streets of Charleston pop with pastel-colored buildings and tall, breezy palm trees. Among the city’s structures, is the The American Theater, an Art Deco-style movie theater on King Street, known for its treasured history and inspiring marquee messages.

Opened in 1942, The American was designed by architect August E. Constantine, a Greek immigrant who designed many of Charleston’s buildings during the 40s and 50s. The Theater is a standout design that employs Art Deco while many of the surrounding buildings are designed in the neoclassical architectural style – it is also one of Constantine’s only remaining works in the city.

The Theater was named in honor of military men and women who served in WW2. Opened during the height of the War, the first film to screen was “Joan of Ozark” starring Judy Canova and Joe E. Brown. The Theater operated successfully until 1977 when it closed following economic decline in the city. In 1996, the building was restored by Patrick Properties who preserved much of the Theater’s original design elements, including its marquee.

After its restoration, the Theater helped to revive development on King Street and the surrounding community. It also attracted the attention of Hollywood serving as the location for a scene in the film “The Notebook”.

Today, the Theater no longer screens movies, but operates exclusively as a meeting space and wedding venue. Since the start of the pandemic, the Theater has committed to use its marque space to share inspiring messages that uplift Charleston residents and provide a sense of unity during an uncertain time.

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