From 2012 to 2018, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country occasionally offered private tours of the theater to select individuals on a very limited basis. While a number of people associated with the theater had their own, individual versions of this tour, the most thorough version came from the chairperson of our Archives and History Committee, Eric Plaag. Now that the interior of the theater is undergoing final renovations, access to the theater is completely cut off, and most of the tour stops are no longer accessible.
Accordingly, we’ve decided to bring selected portions of the tour to you. Shot during August 2018 by our videographer extraordinaire, J. D. Dooley, Eric’s version of the historical tour is divided into 19 segments, each of which explores some aspect of the theater’s history. These highlights from the tour allow you to explore our history in bite-sized chunks.
Segment 1: Opening
In this segment, Eric briefly introduces you to the theater and invites you inside.
Segment 2: Theater Entrance and Adjoining Shops
In this segment, Eric takes you into the original entrance hallway of the Appalachian Theatre, then describes the shops located on either side of this hallway. Topics include the Appalachian Soda (or Sandwich) Shop, a radio shop (of various names), and a beauty parlor.
Segment 3: The Dacus Radio Shop
In this segment, Eric takes you into the Dacus Radio Shop space at the Appalachian Theatre, then describes the Doc Watson's performance on the Appalachian Theatre stage and proprietor Kermit Dacus's subsequent arrest by federal authorities for operating a bootleg radio station.
Segment 4: The Concession Stand
In this segment, Eric takes you into the inner lobby at the Appalachian Theatre, where the theater's concession stand was located from 1938 until 1982. Eric also discusses early concession stand options.
Segment 5: the mysterious hole in the floor
In this segment, Eric shows you a mysterious hole in the floor of the the inner lobby at the Appalachian Theatre, and he describes some of the fascinating objects discovered in that hole. Eric also discusses why the hole exists and the most likely reason it was filled with shoes.
Segment 6: Stage performances
A lot of people mistakenly assume that the Appalachian Theatre was just a movie theater, but in fact, it hosted scores of live acts during its first two decades of operation. In this segment, Eric talks about these live shows and the changes at the Appalachian Theatre that forced the end of live performances on stage.
Segment 7: Steel Beams
The Appalachian Theatre features steel frame construction, meaning that large, steel beams--some of them 50 feet in length--help to support the building's balcony and large roof. But how did they get to Boone in 1938? In this segment, Eric talks about these steel beams, the bad roads of the time, and the role of the Linville River Railway in the construction of the Appalachian Theatre.
Segment 8: The Popcorn fire of 1950
On January 21, 1950, a major fire caused by a malfunctioning popcorn maker heavily damaged much of the Appalachian Theatre. In this segment, Eric talks about the events leading up to that fire, evidence of W. R. Winkler's frugality in rebuilding after the fire, and the lawsuit over the fire that ended up before the NC Supreme Court.
segment 11: barrel-vaulted ceiling
After the 1950 fire, the appearance of the Appalachian Theatre auditorium changed somewhat dramatically. In this segment, Eric explains why building owner W. R. Winkler chose to barrel vault the ceiling of the post-1950 auditorium.
segment 12: movie studio cards
One of the stranger finds in the old Appalachian Theatre was a former storage closet with movie studio names written on cards, as if to section off storage areas for items related to the studios. In this segment, Eric covers the possible explanations for this arrangement, and why the mystery remains unsolved.
segment 14: segregation at the appalachian theatre
Like many theaters in the United States (and especially in the South) during the first half of the 20th century, the Appalachian Theatre was a segregated space, first as a whites-only theater, then for a period of time as a theater where blacks were permitted to attend, but only if they sat in the balcony. In this segment, Eric discusses the difficult history of the Appalachian Theatre as a segregated space.
segment 16: the appalachian twin
When the Appalachian Theatre opened in 1938, it was a single-screen theater with a stage. All that changed in 1982, when the theater's owners at that time, Stewart and Everett Theatres (also known as Essantee), converted the balcony space to a second screen. In this segment, Eric talks about the conversion to a twin cinema and the physical changes that accompanied the conversion.
segment 17: the secret bathroom
An unusual feature of the Appalachian Theatre was its secret bathroom, located in the projection booth. In this segment, Eric explains the role that the Pastime Theatre--located uptown in Boone--played in convincing W. R. Winkler to install a bathroom in the projection booth at the AT, and why that didn't solve all of the problems with inattentive projectionists.
segment 18: the second floor offices and apartment
When W. R. Winkler built the Appalachian Theatre, he maximized his real estate by including three additional storefronts along King Street (see segment 2), as well as a staircase at the east end of the building on King Street that led up to doctors' offices and an apartment on the second floor over the lobby. In this segment, Eric discusses second floor space, how it was arranged, and how it was used.