180 seat venue – “The Cary” opens this week.

By Alex DunhamImage

Cary’s first indoor movie theater, which operated as The Cary in the 1940s and 50s before becoming a clothing retailer, reopens as a dual movie theater and live performance space on Saturday, February 22. The Town purchased the theater property in 2012, renovated it, and attached a major addition.  The elaborate finished result promises to have a significant presence in the Triangle’s film and performing arts communities.

Margue designed by

Margue designed by Lynn Basa of Chicago and Matt McConnell of Raleigh.

Cary plans to program the theater every Thursday through Sunday with 4-5 films and 1-2 live performances per week. The current film schedule includes classics, documentaries, indies and children’s movies (a full listing can be found here.  Most of the film schedule is familiar, but a few rarer, more challenging films are scheduled as well.  Cary also plans to be including some Bollywood films in their schedule.   One weekend per quarter will be themed, the first of which is “Best of the Oscars” weekend in March.

The theater itself is intimate, comfortable, and versatile. 120 of the 180 seats are refurbished movie seats.  The first several rows, though, are folding chairs, which if removed would allow the front space to become a dance floor, a dining area, or an area for an extended stage. High quality video and sound were focuses of the renovation and acoustic music of all genres may feature in future programming plans. Performer needs were taken into account as well – groups have access to two dressing rooms with sinks and a small kitchen and the stage is easily accessible from the loading area behind the building.

Art conservator Jan Hessling works to restore an original mural in The Cary's second floor lobby.

Art conservator Jan Hessling works to restore an original mural in The Cary’s second floor lobby.

The renovation sought to incorporate The Cary’s history wherever possible. The recreated marquee on the front of the original building is complemented inside by mementos of the original theater, including the two remaining original theater seats, a display of an old roll of film found on site before the renovation, and a restored original mural in one of the upstairs lobbies. The interior is upscale but relaxed rather than pretentious; a movie theater atmosphere prevails.

Snack bar (or future cafe) from above.

Snack bar (or future cafe) from above.

In the Town of Cary’s plans, however, The Cary is much more than its renovated theater. What is now a concession stand on the addition’s lower floor will in the future be leased as a daytime café with outdoor seating.  A curved staircase from the lower floor leads to a grand lobby and reception area, which adjoins a second lobby and potential conference room. Also on the addition’s second floor is a further leasable room to be offered by the Town as office space. Most

View from patio off The Cary's third floor potential restaurant/bar space.

View from patio off The Cary’s third floor potential restaurant/bar space.

impressive, though, is The Cary’s beautiful top floor and balcony, envisioned by the Town as an upscale wine bar.   When The Cary is fully occupied, and assuming the theater lives up to its promise of intimacy and excellent video and sound, it has the potential to become one of the most appealing arts venues in the Triangle.

Interested readers should attend The Cary’s opening weekend, Saturday, February 22 through Sunday, February 23, during which admission to all performances and movies is free.  Visit The Cary’s website here.

 

Location: Downtown Cary; the address is 122 E. Chatham Street, Cary, NC 27511
Capacity: Between 120 and 180
Use: Film, music, theater; acoustic music possible
Rental Rates: $600 for 5 hours for Cary-based groups, $900 for non-Cary groups
Parking: There are about 30 spots between the addition and the neighboring Johnson’s Jewelers; at night, spaces are available behind the venue at First United Methodist Church on Waldo St.

Alex Dunham is an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill with an interest in classical music administration.

 

 

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