History of the Savoy Theatre
The Savoy Theatre was one of two long-time African American movie theatres that operated in Charlotte’s Brooklyn Village neighborhood, the city’s premier African American neighborhood during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century.
It opened as the Royal in 1927 then became the Savoy in 1929. It closed for several years in the depths of the Great Depression, then reopened right after World War II on September 1, 1945. The theater fell to the bulldozers of “urban renewal” in the late 1960s.
The Bijou Amusement Company of Nashville, Tennessee, owned the Savoy in 1945. The theater stood at 508 S. McDowell Street — where Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard intersects McDowell Street today. Bijou also owned the other major African American theater in the Brooklyn neighborhood, the Lincoln at 408 E. Second Street in the heart of the city’s main black business district.
Bijou Amusement was owned by the Starr family of Nashville, who also helped create the Theater Owners Booking Association, the network of African American theaters that booked live music and vaudeville entertainers throughout the U.S.
For the Savoy’s 1945 reopening, the owners hired Louis Asbury, one of Charlotte’s leading architects, to extensively redesign the facility in the newly fashionable Art Deco style. Asbury’s renovation drawings still exist in Special Collections at Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte.
Information developed by: Tom Hanchett, Community Historian, October 30, 2018 Tom@HistorySouth.org
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