Three Eastern Shore movie theaters remain nostalgic big-screen options in a world full of state-of-the-art complexes, IMAX and 3-D technology
As American cinema became a cultural phenomenon of the early 20th century, movie theaters began popping up across the country, and the Delmarva Peninsula was no exception. Small theaters, often with a single screen and a stage, began opening their doors in nearly every town. They became cultural symbols as much a part of the American landscape as a Rockwell painting or a baseball game. In more recent times, however, the rise of large, multiplex-style theaters — replete with digital sound systems, high-definition and 3-D technology — has provided fierce competition for these smaller hometown venues. But here on the Eastern Shore, the nostalgia of a vintage theater is alive and well… and it is closer than you might think.
THE CLAYTON THEATRE
It was on February 2, 1949 that the doors of The Clayton Theatre first opened. An iconic building situated on Main Street in Dagsboro, the retro-style neon that lights today’s marquee is the same that was used when it was built 64 years ago. When the current owners purchased the building in 2002, only six pieces of neon were needed to make it fully functional. Today, it stands proudly as Delaware’s only first-run single-screen theater, boasting two large film projectors that also date back to 1948 and are still in use today.
The Clayton has seen several major renovations in the last decade, including reopening the balcony seating area and an upgraded digital sound system. Open every weekend, The Clayton Theatre is faithfully upholding the tradition it started more than a half-century ago.
THE CLAYTON THEATRE, 302-732-3744
When the Mar-Va Theater was built in 1927, it was reportedly the largest one south of Wilmington. Patrons paid a dime for admission to the lavishly furnished, 720-seat space. In the era of silent films, the Mar-Va employed a man to play the piano while the movie flashed on the screen. In the decades that followed, even acts like Roy Rogers, Smiley Burnette and Hopalong Cassidy graced the stage, which was originally built for vaudeville acts.
Though the Mar-Va has been closed and reopened several times in the past 20 years, it is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks to a group of locals who have banded together to save this precious slice of Pocomoke history. In addition to showing movies on the first and third weekends of each month, they have opened up Mar-Va Theater to music concerts, talent shows and even weddings.
MAR-VA THEATER, 410-957-4230
THE ISLAND ROXY
The classic art deco look of an old-time movie theater is perfectly captured in the façade of the historic building known as the Island Roxy on Chincoteague Island. The Island Roxy's history can be traced back to about 1945, when there was a total of three theaters on the small Virginia island perhaps best known as the setting of Marguerite Henry's book Misty
of Chincoteague. When the book was made into the movie Misty and released in 1961, the actual pony for whom the book was named was paraded up and down the aisles of the Island Roxy, or so the story goes. Although the theater was recently closed, the Chincoteague Island Arts Organization was formed to save it. They anticipate reopening the Island Roxy in May. But, for visitors to what will now be known as the Island Theater, one thing will remain absolutely unchanged: Moviegoers will still be able to look down and see Misty’s hoof prints in the concrete just outside the theater door.
THE ISLAND THEATER,
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