Right the Record: Pitts Theatre – Pitts Movie Theatre

305 South Main Street, Culpeper, VA

Location: 305 South Main Street, Culpeper, VA

  • Pitts Theatre, at the time was Culpeper’s newest playhouse, built and owned by Virginia State Senator Benjamin Thomas Pitts of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
  • Pitts purchased the South Main Street property and residence from Merry A. Hitt for the construction of the theater. The house was advertised to be sold and moved from the property in March 1937. No one bought the residence; therefore, the residence was razed in May 1937.
  • Pitts also purchased an additional property from Anna Wine Rixey on East Locust Street for the theater parking lot with the lots’ entrance on East Stevens Street. The theater did not charge for parking.
  • Nicholas Roney of Richmond, Virginia was the architect.
  • Keith Fletcher of Warrenton was the building contractor.
  • Construction of the theater began in August 1937. The structure was composed of brick, cinder blocks and steel. The outside of the building was made of stucco and had a hooded entrance. The building was heated by natural gas. It was the first air-conditioned auditorium in Culpeper.
  • J. W. Swan and Company of Culpeper supplied numerous building materials for construction of the building.
  •  Heyward-Wakefield of Baltimore, Maryland provided the theater chairs.
  • Herbert K. Old and Company of Fredericksburg, Virginia provided the painting, decorating and furnished and installed the asphalt tile flooring.
  • The structure was built for the total amount of $105,000; construction cost $75,000 with additional equipment including RCA sound cost $30,000.
  • The theater had a seating capacity of 825 including the main floor and balcony with upholstered seating. Two shops located on the ground floor, one on each side of the building, were leased to the Theatre Shop and to the Nell Sneade Beauty Shop. Decades later, Betty Brown’s Florist (Mrs. Jarvis Brown of Culpeper Florist) was on the right side. Over the years, some of the various businesses that occupied the left side were Culpeper Hospital office, Clement Insurance, and  Browning Real Estate (Preston M. Browning).

  • Pitts Theater, located on South Main Street in Culpeper, opened on Monday, May 23, 1938.
  • T. I. (Irving) Martin was the manager. The theater had daily matinees and two screenings each night. Admission was 10 cents and 25 cents.
  • During this era in Virginia’s society, theater seating in Pitts Theater was segregated. The main floor seating was attained entering through the front door and was reserved for the white patrons only. Theater seating for the African Americans was in the balcony, entering through the side door, posted on the door as “Colored Entrance” and ascending the staircase to the upper level. This seating arrangement was customary in Pitts Theater in Culpeper and in most theaters and other venues within Virginia until the very late 1960’s and early 1970’s. All Culpeper County schools were completely integrated by the fall of 1968; therefore, many local  businesses began to implement new standards regarding racial equality.
  • The first movie shown on the billboard at Pitts Theater in Culpeper was “Sally, Irene and Mary”, originally a 1925 silent comedy drama film starring Joan Crawford was based on a 1922 play of the same name. The 1938 version starred Alice Fay, Fred Allen, Joan Davis, Marjorie Weaver, Tony Martin and Jimmie Durante.
  • Benjamin Pitts also owned the Fairfax Theater located in the 200 Block of East Davis Street. He owned  a total of thirty-seven theaters which included Fauquier county, Manassas, Orange, Fredericksburg locations and others in his chain of Virginia theaters.
  • Pitts also owned Pitts Bowling Alleys on North Main Street which opened on Friday, April 26, 1940.
  • Pitts Theater had been renamed the “State Theatre” by the time it closed in 1993. It was later renamed “Regal Cinema”. Regal Culpeper was built across the street from Pitts Theater and opened in 2000 showing four movies simultaneously featuring matinees and nightly viewings.
  • The State Theatre Foundation later completed an extensive renovation and addition to the theater and worked to reopen the theater as a live arts center and movie palace. The foundation’s venture did not materialize fully as planned and aspired.
  • The property has changed ownership several times. Currently, the theater building houses several businesses.

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