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(The Original) Richland Mall Theater: Richland Mall: 1980s   26 comments

Posted at 11:01 pm in business,entertainment

I'm not sure when the Richland Mall Theater was built. I can remember going to movies before it was built (specifically at The Atlantic Twin and various theaters on Main Street), and my coherent memories start around 1965, so it can't have been built too long before the first picture I saw there 1968's "Oliver!". What I most remember about that movie is that it seemed interminable to a seven-year-old. IMDB clocks it at two hours 33 minutes, so I'm not surprised I felt that way -- I expect I'd feel that way now too!

The theater was on an outparcel of the "original" open-air Richland Mall. I recall it as more or less at the section of the parking lot fartherest down Beltline from Forest Drive, but I've been wrong here before about the original Richland Mall orientation vs the orientation of the current mall. I think it was more or less where Bank of America and the empty Black Lion building now are, as shown in the second picture, but I could be mistaken.

The layout of the theater was a central ticket window with doors on both sides, a central concession counter and a corridor to each screen at the left and right sides of the lobby. I say 'each' screen, there were only two -- though at the time even two was an innovation. As you can see from the ad in the 15 April 1973 issue of The State the theater was a "Rocking Chair" theater, and this figured heavily into their initial advertising. What this actually meant was that the seats were more thickly padded than "regular" theater seats, and they did indeed have springs such that you could rock them frontwards and backwards a certain extent -- and of course a certain number of kids were always going to be obnoxious about that! (The Palmetto at 1417 Main Street was also a "Rocking Chair" theater -- I expect it shared ownership with the Richland Mall Theater).

The whole "rocking chair" bit paled for me though. What I was always interested in was the theater's "time capsule". This was a bronze plaque set into the concrete of the theater's right-hand sidewalk. It was engraved to say when it was buried and when it was to be opened. I don't remember the date set for exhumation, but I assume it was probably 50 years after the theater opened, so around 2018. I was an avid science fiction reader, but somehow I couldn't even imagine a date that far into the future that involved me personally. In the event, it turns out I'm doing much better than the theater, and though of course you never know, I fully expect to be here in 2018, but the time capsule is long since gone. I don't really remember when the theater was razed to make way for Richland Fashion Mall, but I suspect that it was after I left town in 1985. Otherwise, I think I would have heard what happened to the time capsule. I'm sure it must have been dug up, but whether they opted to open it at that time or to continue to wait, I don't know.

Although I saw a good number of first-run movies at the theaters over the years, I think the bulk of my experience with them came through their summer kids' matinees. The idea was that a) it gets really hot in South Carolina in the summer, b) moms get really tired of having the kids around all day during the summer and c) we could use some matinee business at the concession stands. What Richland Mall (and other theaters) would do was have kid-oriented second-run movies every weekday during the summer for a nominal price (say, $1.00). Moms would drop their kids off (unsupervised!) at the theater and shop Richland Mall while they were out of their hair, the kids would get to see a fun movie and have lots of Milk Duds and popcorn out of the heat, and the theater would get to rake in concession sales during normally idle time.

Some movies I specifically recall seeing this way were Alkazam the Great (a US dubbed [Frankie Avalon!] version of the classic Chinese "Monkey King" story), The Apple Dumpling Gang, Blue Water, White Death (the precursor to today's "Shark Week".., and a bit strong for the kiddies, really..) and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (a now forgotten Disney flick that I loved!).

These programs still exist in some form during the summer, but as most moms work now and most households have air-conditioning, it's just not the same.

I'm trying to think what the last show I saw at the Richland Mall Theaters was. I'm not sure, but it could have been a midnight-movie showing of Peter Falk's classic The In Laws ("Serpentine, Shep! Serpentine!").

The new Richland Fashion Mall did (and does) have theaters on the top deck, but I don't believe they are related to the original Richland Mall Theaters. (And if they were, they aren't now, having changed ownership at least once, from "Litchfield" to "Regal").

"Please sir, I want some more."

UPDATE 3 Sept 2010: Commenter Dennis sends this link which has information about and pictures of a number of old Columbia theaters, including this picture of Richland Mall.

UPDATE 21 June 2010: Added [at top] pictures of Richland Mall Theater and a Richland Mall view with the theater in the distance from an old Chamber of Commerce promotional book.

Written by ted on September 3rd, 2009

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26 Responses to '(The Original) Richland Mall Theater: Richland Mall: 1980s'

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  1. I want to say it was built around 1967. I know it was built before 1969 because I remember "Paint Your Wagon" playing there and it came out in 1969.

    Tom

    4 Sep 09 at 10:08 am

  2. I think it was torn down around '87. Can't recall the last thing I saw there.

    MR BILL

    4 Sep 09 at 11:37 am

  3. The RM Theater was built in 1966. The time capsule was supposed to be opened however many years later, but in 1989 when they tore the mall down and built the attrosity that sits there now, the opened the time capsule..BUT due a poor seal around it that was supposed to keep it air tight..it leaked and all that was inside was ruined..it had a Stereo Beatles Butcher Cover of Yesterday And Today in it along with a newspaper and other things of that year. It say about where Bank of America is give or take. The first movie shown there was "The Glass Bottom Boat" with Doris Day..I know cause my Mom and Dad and me went there the first day/night it was opened. The last thing it was used for was somekind of Church or where a Chuch met..but was falling apart I'm sure to a certain degree inside.. Too bad it's not there anymore. It was orignally a one screen theater, then was "re-modled" I think about a year or so later to the big 2 screens.. Richland Mall aint what it used to be and hasnt been since 1988 the year before they tore it all down.. Too bad Columbia has torn down more in the past 50years than what was burned when Sherman came through Columbia 144 years ago.

    Del

    4 Sep 09 at 2:00 pm

  4. The first show I remember there was a Doris Day double bill with "Glass Bottom Boat" followed by "The Ballad of Josie."

    We loved having a nice air conditioned theater so close to home instead of way downtown. I got yelled at many times by the ushers (remember ushers?) for being to rowdy with the rocking chair seats.

    I also saw there
    "Gone With the Wind"
    "There Once Was A Christmas That Almost Wasn't"
    "Oliver"
    "Paint YOur Wagon"
    "Hello Down There"
    "Dr. Zhivago"
    "The Love Bug" (Herbie)
    "The Impossible Years"
    "Goodbye, Mr. Chips"
    "Bobby Deerfield"
    "The Paper Chase"
    and a bunch more.

    The one I really remember was "2001: A Space Odyssey," which I saw with my father one Saturday afternoon when it was new and I was 11. We thought it would be some sort of Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon picture, and on the drive home he said
    "Son - what do you think that was all about?"
    I said "I really don't know"
    He said "Me neither."

    Dennis

    6 Sep 09 at 8:06 pm

  5. Yeah, we saw GWTW there on a school class field trip. They left the "intermission" graphics in there even though they did not actually stop the film for intermission (remember those?) and confused everybody.

    As I said, I know I saw "Oliver" there, I'm pretty sure I saw "The Lover Bug" there as well.

    "Hello Down There", I'm not so sure I saw first run, but I'd just like to mention that it is *finally* out on DVD: "Little Goldfish, swim along with me, we could have a whale of a time -- put your fin in mine.."

    ted

    6 Sep 09 at 10:06 pm

  6. The RM theater was a bit out of the way for me. So , like the Regal, unless it's the only screen showing, I seldom travel that far. The first movie I saw there was The Way We Were and the last I saw was Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom.
    As I recall it sat off by itself a good way from the mall which allowed for plenty of parking. Even after they split it up it had plenty of seating comparable to the Dutch Square twin. Even when the twin concept came along people might have to wait in line for awhile. Now that we have gotten used to multi-plexes; waiting in line is a rarity but in those days you knew, the longer the line, generally speaking, the better the movie. Nowadays you don't wait as long, since the strategy is to run as many screens the first week as they can. You don't know what the crowd will be until you turn the corner of that dark corridor to take your seat.
    Before Doug Nye left the State paper he wrote a brief article about the old theaters and I wish someone (maybe etv) would put together a documentary about the old movie houses of Columbia.

    John R

    7 Sep 09 at 9:59 am

  7. I went to plenty of the summer matinees. I remember Born Free and Song of the South.

    Last film I saw there was Maximum Overdrive.

    jamie

    8 Sep 09 at 9:18 am

  8. Missed "Born Free", but I'm pretty sure I saw "Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion" there in a summer show. I'm unclear now if it was the pilot or what, but it was clearly related to the TV show "Daktari".

    ted

    8 Sep 09 at 11:23 am

  9. My best theater experience was when I saw Return of the Jedi there. Unforgettable.

    JC

    10 Sep 09 at 9:27 pm

  10. Oddly enough, I have almost no memory of this one, even though we frequented Richland Mall when I was a child. I know I saw movies there, but don't recall one title. I grew up in Whitehall, so most of my young years were spent there.
    I agree with other posters--who ever decided Richland Mall needed to be enclosed should be tarred and feathered. For 26 years it was a nice and successful shopping destination, and was very unique. For the last twenty years it has been another generic mall and has floundered. If it wasn't for the Barnes and Noble I'd never set foot in the place.

    59 Ford Wheelman

    14 Oct 09 at 5:55 pm

  11. And B&N kept cutting their hours to the point it's no longer good for evening cofee and browsing..

    ted

    14 Oct 09 at 5:59 pm

  12. Does anyone remember watching "Midway" in Sensaround. They had these giant speakers set up that created a rumbling effect during the airplane/battle scenes. I thought that was ahead of its time now with all the home sound equipment with emphasis on sub woofers. I also remember Return Of The Jedi. It was so crowded we had to wait hours to get a ticket and once we got it in was so packed we couldn't sit together. They were only single seats. That's saying alot because those theatres were huge. What a great memory! Huge crowd, huge screen and lots of excitement, anticipation.

    jjt

    3 Jan 10 at 10:10 am

  13. I don't remember Midway, but I did see Tora!Tora!Tora! at the Jefferson Square Theater. I saw tons of movies at the RM theater, but especially remember "Run,Cougar,Run" because we went to see it for my cousin's birthday and when we came out, it was snowing. I pity my aunt & uncle who had to take us because they had to deal with about 8 ten year old girls who were quite rowdy on the ride home!

    jeanne

    6 Jan 10 at 1:23 pm

  14. Does anyone remember watching “Midway” in Sensaround. They had these giant speakers set up that created a rumbling effect during the airplane/battle scenes.
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Heck yeah, I do! I was even there to see another movie a couple weeks before I saw Midway and Sensaround really messed up the sound on the movie we were watching (don't remember the name).

    jamie

    6 Jan 10 at 3:29 pm

  15. I remember the theatre
    for what I didn't see, not what I did .. I walked out
    of "Dirty Dancing" after 20 minutes ...
    Can't remember whether or not the girls we were with stayed
    or what we did .. Yeah, who could forget Jefferson Square
    Theatre .. I saw "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
    there in 77 w/ my parents .. all I could remember
    was the fact that that movie was $4.00 .. this when
    most movies (for a kid or student) were $1.50

    Great site, Ted ..

    Fish

    10 Jan 10 at 5:38 pm

  16. I live near this "mall" What in the world happened to it? It's basically empty with a couple exceptions. Why did everything shut down and why is it still there if theres basically no stores and no customers?

    I remember hearing rumours that they were going to build some type of condos or fancy apartments on the top of the mall.

    John Capilos

    11 Jan 10 at 2:55 pm

  17. I think the Verizon call center has been carrying it. I suspect (though I hope not) that the center moving to Spears Creek Road will be the end of Richland Mall.

    ted

    11 Jan 10 at 11:14 pm

  18. I remember watching "A Christmas Story" there when I was 12 or so. I remember my dad taking me to see "Purple Rain" and I remember watching "Beverly Hills Cop" at the theater. Good times. Always was curious about that time capsule as well.

    Manton

    21 Feb 10 at 1:07 am

  19. Elsewhere on this blog (the Bell's Hamburgers entry), I mused that it would be nice to find postcards of all the old places that we wish we had photographs for, because I got lucky finding a postcard for Bell's. Early this a.m., I decided I was going to make an attempt to track down some of these mythical postcards. The funniest thing is that when I did a google image search, easily half of the images belonged to entries from Columbia Closings. Google is literally awash with listings from this blog when you look up something old from Columbia, you should be very pleased Ted.

    I started out looking for a postcard for the old Richland Mall just to get started, and as is often the case in searching for one thing, I ended up with something a bit different from what I was looking for. Here's a photograph of the original Richland Mall Theater that I found from a website by the name of South Carolina Movie Theaters, a great resource by the way. It certainly does bring back the memories, because I remember the opening quite well, however in the photograph it looks like the actual theater part of the building is missing. Probably just the angle at which the photograph was taken.

    I saw many movies here, but I would have to say the one that really came back to my mind the easiest when I first saw the photograph was "2001: A Space Odyssey." A friend and I walked the short distance to the theater, which I remember quite well, however on the walk back I was in such a daze that I don't remember anything else about that day. That's what a good movie will do for you.

    Michael Taylor

    11 Jun 10 at 2:07 am

  20. That was where I saw Star Wars among other movies. It was a pretty cool theater. Richland Mall was a pretty cool mall for that matter, until a bunch of delusional idiots made grandiose plans for it.

    Blaine

    19 Aug 11 at 10:48 pm

  21. My Mom gave me the program that was handed out for the very first time the Theater opened in 1966. The premiere movie was The Glass Bottom Boat. It may not be a great thing, but I bet no one else still has an original program fromm there.

    Del

    8 Jan 12 at 6:37 pm

  22. I saw ONE movie there - the first "Lethal Weapon". After that, the galactic cinematic flop "Ishtar" played for what seemed like a million years, then it closed along with the rest off the mall to be remodeled.

    Bobbe Edmonds

    14 Feb 12 at 4:52 am

  23. I remember the movies Midway and Tora Tora Tora in sensaround. I also remember a twin billing of Dirty Harry and Magnum Force. Was anyone at the theater when they had a bomb threat and had to clear the building for a brief time? It think it was 1977. I also remember my parents buying us the ticket packet for summer movies(Disney Movies) for a couple of years. I think around 1970-71. Somewhere in that time frame. That was their way to dump us off for a couple of hours at the movies.

    Tommy

    4 Mar 12 at 5:20 pm

  24. I went there only once or twice but was very impressed. It was one of about 2 theaters in town (The Jefferson on Main being the other) that had truly enormous curved screens. I'm pretty sure I saw once of the Star Wars movies. there.

    The theater was part of the Plitt Theater chain at the time;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plitt_Theatres

    MrBO

    15 Jul 13 at 8:37 am

  25. tonkatoy

    11 Oct 13 at 10:18 am

  26. My father Robie Roberson President and CEO of Roberson Construction Company and Marvin McCrory of McCrory Construction both bidded for the Richland Mall back in 1966 and my Dad lost out to Marvin McCroy!!! LOL!

    Patricia Lewis

    6 Mar 14 at 11:14 am

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