If the once-ornate walls of the Sottile Theatre could talk, they would no doubt share stories of the venue’s early days wowing local audiences with its entertainment offerings and its physical grandeur. Those wall might recount the buzz surrounding premieres for famed films, like the 1939 Gone With the Wind, or the arrival of touring vaudeville stars.
Ninety years ago today, on Aug. 20, 1927, Albert Sottile, president of Pastime Amusement Company, opened the doors of the Gloria Theatre, a 2,000-seat venue topped off with an impressive marquee that lit up surrounding King Street. The largest of its kind in South Carolina, the Gloria for decades gathered Charlestonians to enjoy the razzle-dazzle of stage and screen amidst the architectural majesty of the era, including an opulent vestibule leading to the grand lobby, hand-painted murals, a dome twinkling with special lighting effects and more.
A year after the Gloria closed in 1975, the theater was acquired by the College of Charleston, which changed its name to the Sottile Theater. In 1986, the College began restoring the venue, reopening it in 1990 with modern heating, air conditioning, an expanded stage apron, and later adding a two-story wing with expanded dressing rooms and scenery storage.
Now, as the theater marks its 90-year milestone, the College embarks the next phase of refurbishment, which will entail fully modernizing the theater, as well as restoring the decorative murals that were long hidden behind acoustic panels. What better way to commemorate this campus jewel – updating it for a new cultural era, while also reviving its former glory?
If you have questions or would like more information about this historic restoration project, please call the Sottile Theatre at 843-953-6340 or email SottileTheatre@cofc.edu.
Images by Mike Ledford