The Beverly Theater (1941-1971)
Opened in 1941, the Beverly Theater was a neighborhood movie theater for the Beverly Hills and Gallaher Village community on the southeastern side of Huntington, West Virginia. The theater showed second-run movies that had already been screened at the larger downtown theaters, offering neighborhood residents discounted ticket prices and various other deals. Although the theater was purchased in 1963 by two Charleston-based businessmen, it closed its doors only six years later, forming part of a wider decline of second-run theaters across the United States. In 1971, the old theater was sold and converted into a grocery store, and has since housed various businesses. The structure, whose appearance has been altered over the years, currently houses a martial arts school.
Backstory and Context
The Beverly Theater opened in 1941 at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Norway Avenue. It was situated in southeast Huntington, in the Beverly Hills or Gallaher Village area. Beverly Hills and Gallaher Village (also known as Gallaherville or G’ville) both began as independent communities that were set apart from the city by open farmland. By the start of the twentieth century, as Huntington rapidly expanded in population and size, it quickly surrounded Beverly Hills and Gallaher Village, which subsequently became neighborhoods with their own distinct character. Gallaher Village came to refer to the relatively small area where Washington Boulevard meets Norway Avenue, situated within the larger Beverly Hills neighborhood of southeastern Huntington.
With the opening of the Beverly Theater, the neighborhood had its own movie house where residents could easily walk for an afternoon, evening, or full day of entertainment. The small theater had one screen and space for about four hundred audience members. As was the case for most neighborhood theaters, the Beverly Theater showed movies that had been screened weeks or even months earlier at the larger theaters in downtown Huntington like the Palace or the Orpheum. Second-run theaters like the Beverly were charged less by studios to show movies that were being re-released, which enabled them to offer cheaper ticket prices and attractive deals like 35 cent double-features on weekends. In the days before each family had their own television, theaters like the Beverly were especially appealing to the neighborhood’s children, as they offered kids discounted ticket prices to watch all the cartoons and movies that they wanted.
With the convenience of its location and its low prices, the Beverly quickly became a popular landmark in its community. In 1963, the owner of the Beverly, James W. Rodgers, sold the theater to Walter P. Dils and C.L. Urling. The two businessmen, based in South Charleston, already owned multiple theaters throughout the state. With locations in Charleston, South Charleston, Nitro, Richwood, Logan and Rainelle, the purchase of the Beverly Theater added Huntington to Dils and Urling’s collection of movie houses. Notably, according to a Herald-Dispatch article about the old theater, the two men considered the Beverly Theater “one of the best-equipped theaters around.”
Although it was a beloved feature of the neighborhood for many years, attendance at the Beverly Theater, like that at second-run theaters across the country, steadily declined with the rise of television as an alternative source of entertainment. The Beverly Theater closed its doors in 1969, only five years after it changed ownership. In 1971, the former theater was sold and extensively remodeled to become a grocery store. Since then, various businesses have occupied the building over the years, including a convenience store, laundromat, and a carpeting store. The structure still stands today, although the iconic marquee was removed long ago and the exterior has been altered almost beyond recognition. As of 2019, the building houses Tristate Taekwondo, a martial arts school.
Casto, James E.. Lost Huntington: The Beverly Theater, Huntington Herald-Dispatch. August 3rd 2015. Accessed December 10th 2019. https://www.herald-dispatch.com/special/lost_huntington/lost-huntington-the-beverly-theater/article_c3f6e33e-e138-5a64-bda1-7b0b06a6246d.html.