The Salem Community Theater was founded in 1977 by the late Charles E. Williams and Judy Waugh. Their first production was Godspell and the performances took place at the Salem High School. In 1981, the group was able to purchase the old State Theatre building, still owned by Jean Rakestraw, widow of Virgil Rakestraw, who had owned and operated the State Theatre as a movie house which opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1922 featuring the movie Smilin Through.
The Byrd Theatre was built in 1928 in Richmond, Virginia as one of the Nations’s Grand Movie Palaces and is both a State and National Historic landmark. Today it serves as an anchor for the quaint Carytown shopping district offering second-run movies for $1.99.
The 1300-seat Byrd Theatre, named after William Byrd II, one of the founders of Richmond, is one of the nation’s finest cinema treasures. And unlike many opulent theatres that were built during the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, the Byrd Theatre is largely unaltered in appearance or function, operating almost continuously since 1928 as a movie theatre.
Here’s some close ups of the Byrd: