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The Movies at Polo, 9700 Two Notch Road (near Sesqui): July 2005   35 comments

Posted at 4:49 pm in entertainment,historic,stores

The Movies at Polo opened and closed while I was living in Aiken. I can't recall specifically that I ever saw a show there, though I was in town more weekends than not. I think this place is another example of Pat Berman's underfannied theory of the Columbia movie market. There are simply not enough fannies-on-seats week-in-and-week out in Columbia to support the number of theaters we used to have. Of course in this case, it probably didn't help either that a new theater was in the offing at the nearby Village at Sandhills, though I'm pretty sure The Movies at Polo gave up the ghost before that multiplex opened.

Unlike the Capiton Centre Theatre we can't see with any specificity which movies actually closed this operation, but there has been no lack of bombs in recent years. I like to think it was Son of the Mask.

At any rate, we can see that, as usual, it wasn't a shortage of parking that did the place in:

For restaurant buildings, the last stage is the "Asian Buffet" stage. For other retail space, the last stage is the "Self Storage" stage:

As an aside, The Movies at Polo was actually a rather misleading name, as the place is not that close to Polo Road. The Movies Near Sesqui would have been better.

UPDATE 11 September 2011 -- As mentioned in the comments, there has long been a sign indicating that a funeral home is coming to the property. In fact, the sign has been there long enough that it seems unlikely now. I guess there might be enough room in the old parking lot for such an establishment and its own associated parking, but it would seem rather crowded. The self-storage place mentioned above has been open in the old theater building, and several adjacent new buildings for a good while now.

Also, as indicated in the comments, commenter Andrew has pinned the closing date for this place as July 2005, so I have updated the post title to indicate that. Also added the full street address.

UPDATE 27 February 2014 -- Well, I'm not entirely sure what happened here. I always wondered how Shive's could possibly build a funeral home on this site given that Monster had the old theater building, leaving only the old parking lot open -- and funeral homes need lots of parking for visitation and organizing the funeral processions. At any rate, the sign proclaiming this as the new Shive's site sat there for years with no action, and it has finally been replaced with one saying that the new funeral home will be built on Trenholm Road Extension instead (but Monster's sign still welcomes Shive's..)

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UPDATE 21 April 2014 -- Just for the record, Shive's has broken ground on Trenholm Road Extension & Dawson Road now:

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Written by ted on May 6th, 2008

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35 Responses to 'The Movies at Polo, 9700 Two Notch Road (near Sesqui): July 2005'

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  1. Growing up and living in Irmo, I only saw one movie here. I can't remember what it was. Was this the theater that in the end, turned into a $1.00 or $1.50 movie house? I'd love to have that mask sign in my house.

    Jonathan

    7 May 08 at 3:02 pm

  2. I could be wrong, but I think the St. Andrews Rd. movies have been the only discount theater in Columbia..

    As for the sign, if you have a ladder, and can work fast at night, I doubt anyone would persue the matter :-)

    ted

    7 May 08 at 3:28 pm

  3. The $1.50 theater that Jonathan is thinking of was known as Spring Valley Commons and is now...wait for it...a self storage location. It is located near a Bi-Lo and Zesto on Two Notch.

    The company that owned Movies at Polo owns the Sandhills cinema. Once they got Sandhills opened, they closed this place within a couple of weeks. Funnt that you mention the excessive parking. When this place was at its peak, it wasn't unusual to have to park on Two Notch Rd.

    By the way, I stumbled across this site a couple of months ago and read it daily. I had been hoping for a Po' Folks post, as my parents made me eat there a lot as a young fellow. Anyone remember Annabell's (sp) at Columbia Mall? That place was awesome.

    Ken

    8 May 08 at 7:59 am

  4. Oh yeah. I remember that movie place now. It closed while I was living in Fayetteville, I think, and I never knew it had gone $1.50 first. The only time I ever saw a movie there was the time, when through a sitcom-like sequence of events, my sister and I ended up having to entertain a Japanese exchange student who got to town late and couldn't check in at USC. He spoke no English and the movie we ended up seeing Major League which had a groundskeeper character who only spoke Japanese. It was probably the only thing our "guest" understood that weekend.

    And actually that Zesto is a matress store now!

    Ah, thanks for the timing info on the opening of Sandhills/closing of Polo!

    Yes, I remember Annabelle's. It was on the lower level near Sears. There was also one at Dutch Square, I think.

    ted

    8 May 08 at 11:10 am

  5. The Sandhills movie theater opened the week of Star Wars III and was owned by the same company that owned Movies at Polo (I believe Eastern Federation, which was bought by Reagal Cinemas soon after Sandhills opened).

    Movies at Polo did not close until later that year, however.

    Max

    9 May 08 at 11:10 pm

  6. The owners of this theater swore they would keep it going as well as open the new Regal complex in Sandhill.

    I think the joke may have been on the employees at this place. Once the new theater opened, this place was history.

    Joe Verant

    12 May 08 at 12:00 pm

  7. I only went to movies @ Polo once or twice. The theater was fine, no issues with it. With the Sandhills theater opening, it made this one redundant.

    Ted, the theater is not on Polo and not hyper-close to Polo, but it's the nearest intersection on Two-Notch, hence the name.

    Recently I saw a small flea-market of sorts in the large parking lot of this theater. Not sure if it's official or not.

    JP

    J.P.

    21 May 08 at 11:28 am

  8. I thought this place turned into a Baptist church years ago? Am I thinking of another place?

    Anna

    24 Jun 08 at 8:25 pm

  9. The only theater turned church I can think of in Columbia is on Harden Street near Benedict. My father once told me that during segregation, it was the "black theater" for the area and I guess ending segregation would have removed a lot of its business. Anyway, the Movies at Polo were never and apparently will not ever be a church.

    ted

    24 Jun 08 at 11:40 pm

  10. They did do 1.00 movies there. I think they tried it off an on over the years. They always had first run stuff too.

    Spring valley commons was down the street and it was always a dollar theater. The cinema in Bush river mall tried the dollar movie thing just before it closed up. I think that was in 98.

    Mr Bill

    14 Jul 08 at 10:06 am

  11. If I remember correctly, the company that owned the Sandhills theater did vow to keep them both open, but was then bought out by Regal which promptly closed it as they saw no purpose for both.

    Kenderthane

    25 Jul 08 at 3:19 pm

  12. The most unfortunate thing about this property is that it used to be part of Sesqui State Park. The park service sold off this parcel to a private developer despite objections from many of the local residents, and part of the deal was that the land was to be used to provide entertainment or similar service to the community. A movie theater filled that requirement, but a self-storage facility certainly does not.

    I was hoping that Regal would've let it remain as a discount theater.

    Michael

    24 Aug 08 at 11:17 pm

  13. I remember the controversy, but I didn't know the land extended to there -- I thought it was that "Sesqui Station" strip.

    ted

    25 Aug 08 at 12:20 am

  14. Latest sign says it's going to be a Shives Funeral Home. Monster storage name is still up there but big Shives thing added over the last week or so.

    natalie

    26 Aug 08 at 4:26 pm

  15. I'm sure it wasn't anything special, but I have fond memories of that theater. I saw Home Alone there, and many other movies during my middle school years.

    GTJ

    8 Oct 08 at 8:46 pm

  16. That's the way I feel about the (demolished) Richland Mall "rocking chair" theater.

    ted

    8 Oct 08 at 9:21 pm

  17. I am just a few years older than you guys and have wonderful memories of the time when all of Columbia's theaters were on Main Street. (For some reason all but one were on the west side.)

    Let me see if I can remember them in order, starting from the State House:

    The Carolina
    The Miracle
    The Palmetto
    The Fox
    The Ritz
    and later, Jefferson Square.

    There were many little differences from today's cinder block megaplexes. For one thing, people were polite and quiet. Going to a movie was an event, not just a time-killer. The theaters were smaller, but nicer, with an industry-wide tradition of heavy velvet drapery, beautiful wallpaper, elaborate art deco sconces, and you had a wonderful feeling of being safely cocooned.

    The small lobbies had b&w 8x10 still photos from the movie you were about to see, just to build excitement I suppose.

    They sold orange soda in plastic oranges with a straw sticking out. I kept them and had dozens. For a long time you could also get it in a hollow plastic Gemini space capsule. Popcorn came in those red and white striped boxes; enough for a normal human rather than a cubic yard in a giant greasy bucket.

    Just to give you something to look at before the show, most thaters had a turning color wheel in front of a small spotlight pointed at the silk curtains over the screen. You could get hypnotized watching them slowly change from green... to blue... to r e d . . . t o y e l

    Seats on the end of a row had little lamps that shone on the floor, and if that wasn't enough there were ushers, grown men wearing jackets and ties, who would help you find a seat with their special little flashlights. Tiny stairs led to balconies that our parents shooed us away from. I always imagined dark criminal things happening there from the way they acted.

    When the movie was over, during the 20 seconds worth of credits, people carried their trash back out with them and put it in a trash can. Imagine!

    Dennis

    9 Oct 08 at 9:11 am

  18. Nice recollections! These theaters were mostly still open when I was a kid (except the one on the east side near Capitol Newsstand I always remember as closed). There was another one downtown across Assembly somewhere too.

    Aside from Jefferson Square, I only remember seeing a few movies on Main street. I do recall once when I was a kid, my father wondered out loud if there would be a cartoon before the movie, and I thought he was crazy -- cartoons were for TV on Saturday morning. About the last thing I saw downtown was Ralph Bakshi's Wizards which both my mother and sister walked out on.

    ted

    9 Oct 08 at 11:55 am

  19. The theater on the east side (even nos.) in the first block of Main St. was the Miracle. It had a much larger front lobby than the others.

    Dennis

    9 Oct 08 at 1:26 pm

  20. Eastern Federal Cinemas owned this theatre and then built the one at Sandhills. They tried keeping it open for approx 2 months but were pretty sure it wasn't going to last with the new cinema at Sanshills. They ended up getting later bought by Regal. It also seems that this is now not even turning into a self storage facility... ? from the looks

    Joe

    23 Nov 08 at 2:46 pm

  21. thugs. that's why places like this close. in such close proximity to Wild Wood and Spring Valley how could you not keep a theater open? $1 [insert commodity here] ruins places because it lets thugs in the establishment and thugs chase out people who would normally show up and, you guessed it, spend money.

    oh well, the only time i ever saw movies there was over t-giving or xmas break and the last time i did that was about 8 years ago so no biggie. :p

    steve

    11 Mar 09 at 2:10 pm

  22. I think the best of the downtown theaters was the Ritz..it had that mezmorizing color changing curtains that was worth the money to get in as far as I was concerned as a kid. I didnt care about the Movie..I wanted to see the colors change. It was a very neet art deco place until they changed it to that thing called "The Plaza". By then it had lost it's appeal quite a bit. The Palmetto on the other hand looked a bit dumpy but not as bad as the Carolina did. Then when the Palmetto was remodeld in the 70's, it was a really nice place to go to see a movie, but the Carolina just got worse and then The Mirical and Fox started down the road to dis-repair and then they all went away.. Too bad.

    Del

    12 Apr 09 at 7:27 pm

  23. 2010 update: The storage facility has been open for awhile. For some reason the banner announcing the funeral home ("coming in 2009", which is already over) remains up. The parking lot is empty, the storage place was built behind it. Not sure if the long term plan is to put the funeral home where the parking lot is.

    I pass this place every day on my commute. When it initially closed as a theater, they left up one movie name for almost a year. You'd think I would remember that movie name... but no, it's been too long, I can't recall it.

    Bobby

    22 Jan 10 at 3:15 pm

  24. I remember waching The Polor Express there In 2004

    Javier

    13 Sep 10 at 8:16 pm

  25. They have a Shives Funeral Home sign up saying "Coming in 2008". It's been there since early 2007.....now, it's Monster Storage. I don't think the funeral home is coming, lol.

    Meg

    3 Jul 11 at 2:13 am

  26. Unless it's a new concept in economy-minded mausoleums.... :)

    Alaska Jill

    3 Jul 11 at 6:32 am

  27. Monster.Self.Storage --- hmm.

    ted

    3 Jul 11 at 11:52 am

  28. Ok I have the following trio of articles:

    The Movies at Polo closed in 2005

    I also have one from when this place opened in 1988

    Andrew

    26 Aug 11 at 10:14 pm

  29. I was an assistant manager here from 1992-1997. For the first two years, the theatre was "half and half." Four screens were first-run films and four screens were second-run (dollar movies). The seats in the lobby were set up to create a border down the lobby so people couldn't side-hop. We even had to get the exact same arcade games on both sides so people couldn't use that as an excuse to hop.

    There was one man who ALWAYS managed to jump sides. Everyone who worked there knew him, and we watched him like hawks. When they closed, I expected to hear about a tunnel being discovered from audiorium #3 to #6.

    In 1995 we got a new booker who decided to try an experiment. Because we weren't actually in a competitive zone, we were always able to get any movie we wanted (but the previous booker didn't seem to pursue blockbusters. I remember screening such quality films as "American Cyborg: Steel Warrior."). That year we went to first-run only and did bang-up business.

    In 1999, the theatre upgraded to stadium style seating to coincide with the opening of the first Star Wars prequel. I think the last thing I saw there was "Gladiator," so I'm really shocked to learn they stayed open until 2005.

    Screening movies until 5am, playing laser tag with all the theatre lights out and music blaring. Jeez, there was even a low budget horror movie that was partially shot there. And don't ask what went on in the (very spacious) projection booth. Terrible pay, but one of the most fun jobs I ever had.

    Steve

    3 Sep 11 at 10:23 pm

  30. Great stories!

    ted

    3 Sep 11 at 11:06 pm

  31. I have two articles. One that shows it closed in 2005 and another from 1988 that shows the theater's happier times:

    POLO ROAD THEATER CLOSES AS SANDHILL CINEMA IS SOLD
    --------------------------------------------------
    State, The (Columbia, SC)-July 27, 2005
    Author: JAMES D. McWILLIAMS

    Staff Writer

    Eastern Federal Corp. has sold Northeast Richland's Sandhill Cinema 16 and closed a second theater about three miles away, The Movies at Polo Road.

    Regal Entertainment Group, a Knoxville, Tenn. -based company, has bought the first theater and renamed it Regal Sandhill Stadium 16.

    That theater opened in late May in the emerging Village at Sandhill and has two more screens than any of its largest local competitors.

    But the company has not bought the Polo Road theater, in spite of the fact that movie-ticket Web sites now refer to it as Regal Polo Road Stadium 8, said Dick Westerling, a senior vice president of Regal.

    In April, Regal announced it was buying 22 theaters from Eastern Federal for $127.6 million, but those numbers were trimmed to 21 theaters and $125.2 million in the final transaction Thursday.

    MovieTickets.com and Hollywood.com both say that tickets for the Polo Road theater are unavailable indefinitely.

    "We're out of the theater business," said Eastern Federal representative Courtney Greene on Tuesday. She said she did not know what will happen to the Polo Road building, and said no company official was available to comment.

    Another Eastern Federal representative said in May that the company planned to keep the theater open.

    Although the recent hit "Fantastic Four" was still advertised on the theater's marquee this week, the theater apparently has been shut down for days - its parking lot empty, its building dark and its phone unanswered.

    Regal Entertainment Group is a public company that had net income of $82.5 million on revenue of about $2.47 billion in 2004. The company operates 6,605 screens at 579 locations in 40 states, according to government filings. Regal operates about 18 percent of all indoor movie screens in the United States.

    Regal already owned the Regal Cinema 7 at Richland Mall.

    The former Sandhill Cinema 16 is a big draw at the Village at Sandhill, a 300-acre mixture of commercial and residential development by Alan Kahn. Kahn said the theater's sale will have no impact on his development.

    "It will, in fact, be the same theater with the same brand new building and the same films," said Kahn, chairman of M.B. Kahn Construction Co., one of the Southeast's largest development businesses. "It should be just simply a very seamless and smooth transition. That's what we're hoping. . . . Eastern Federal was a fine theater operator, and Regal is an excellent theater operator."

    Kahn said he had congratulated Eastern Federal on the sale, and that he would work to help make Regal successful at the village.

    Reach McWilliams at (803) 771-8308 or jmcwilliams@thestate.com.
    Edition: FINALSection: BUSINESSPage: C9
    Index Terms: DEVELOPMENT RICHLAND COUNTYRecord Number: 0507270095Copyright (c) 2005 The State

    ==================================================
    POLO ROAD THEATER CLOSES AS SANDHILL CINEMA IS SOLD
    --------------------------------------------------
    State, The (Columbia, SC)-July 27, 2005
    Author: JAMES D. McWILLIAMS

    Staff Writer

    Eastern Federal Corp. has sold Northeast Richland's Sandhill Cinema 16 and closed a second theater about three miles away, The Movies at Polo Road.

    Regal Entertainment Group, a Knoxville, Tenn. -based company, has bought the first theater and renamed it Regal Sandhill Stadium 16.

    That theater opened in late May in the emerging Village at Sandhill and has two more screens than any of its largest local competitors.

    But the company has not bought the Polo Road theater, in spite of the fact that movie-ticket Web sites now refer to it as Regal Polo Road Stadium 8, said Dick Westerling, a senior vice president of Regal.

    In April, Regal announced it was buying 22 theaters from Eastern Federal for $127.6 million, but those numbers were trimmed to 21 theaters and $125.2 million in the final transaction Thursday.

    MovieTickets.com and Hollywood.com both say that tickets for the Polo Road theater are unavailable indefinitely.

    "We're out of the theater business," said Eastern Federal representative Courtney Greene on Tuesday. She said she did not know what will happen to the Polo Road building, and said no company official was available to comment.

    Another Eastern Federal representative said in May that the company planned to keep the theater open.

    Although the recent hit "Fantastic Four" was still advertised on the theater's marquee this week, the theater apparently has been shut down for days - its parking lot empty, its building dark and its phone unanswered.

    Regal Entertainment Group is a public company that had net income of $82.5 million on revenue of about $2.47 billion in 2004. The company operates 6,605 screens at 579 locations in 40 states, according to government filings. Regal operates about 18 percent of all indoor movie screens in the United States.

    Regal already owned the Regal Cinema 7 at Richland Mall.

    The former Sandhill Cinema 16 is a big draw at the Village at Sandhill, a 300-acre mixture of commercial and residential development by Alan Kahn. Kahn said the theater's sale will have no impact on his development.

    "It will, in fact, be the same theater with the same brand new building and the same films," said Kahn, chairman of M.B. Kahn Construction Co., one of the Southeast's largest development businesses. "It should be just simply a very seamless and smooth transition. That's what we're hoping. . . . Eastern Federal was a fine theater operator, and Regal is an excellent theater operator."

    Kahn said he had congratulated Eastern Federal on the sale, and that he would work to help make Regal successful at the village.

    Reach McWilliams at (803) 771-8308 or jmcwilliams@thestate.com.
    Edition: FINALSection: BUSINESSPage: C9
    Index Terms: DEVELOPMENT RICHLAND COUNTYRecord Number: 0507270095Copyright (c) 2005 The State

    ==========================================
    NEW MOVIE HOUSE EYES UPSCALE CROWD
    --------------------------------------------------
    State, The (Columbia, SC)-February 12, 1988
    Author: Pat Berman, Record staff writer

    The Movies At Polo are not on Polo Road at all. The new movie house is on Two Notch Road and might have been called Spring Valley theaters if the name hadn't already been taken.

    All this is not to suggest that geography is a problem in northeast Columbia, but rather that image counts. Better to be associated with a rich man's sport than a poor man's. Besides, the new multiplex, which is about three-and-a-half miles from Spring Valley theaters and four miles from Columbia Mall Cinemas, expects to draw most of its moviegoers from the upscale subdivisions that have burgeoned in the area in the last decade.

    Residents from such far-flung regions as Blythewood and Pontiac may also find the theaters a little more conveniently located than what has been available to them in the past.

    The Movies At Polo houses eight auditoriums, ranging from 180 to 280 seats, and has its grand opening today. It is like the other "plexes" in the area in that it will show mostly first-run, 35 mm movies.

    Each auditorium is equipped with a "Smart Sound" system that provides stereo and noise reduction. For a moviegoer who notices the details, the screens are wall-to-wall, the comfort of the seats may be rated as "fine" and the aisles in each auditorium are on the sides so there is no intrusive center aisle.

    Concessions and admission prices are comparable to other area theaters -- $4.75 for adults, $3 for children under 12 and $3 for movies before 6 p.m. Cecil Allen, marketing director for Eastern Federal Corp., which owns the multiplex, said there are no plans for raising the admission, either.

    Movies At Polo seems efficiently designed, with some art deco touches to jazz the place up. The theater's manager, Robert Hall, promises a quality presentation.

    Aside from once operating the now-closed Miracle theater on Main Street, this is Eastern Federal's first real dip into the Columbia market.

    Other companies operating first-run theaters here are Roth Theaters and General Cinema Corp.

    ED MORROW will be the full-time projectionist at Movies At Polo. He speaks softly, which seems like a good trait for a projectionist, and he seems to move quickly which may also prove invaluable.

    Morrow, who used to run the projectors at the now-closed Richland Mall theaters, will be operating the projectors in all eight auditoriums. Since so much of his work is automated, and the projectionist booths have become more like a long corridor than a cramped, little room, he is confident that his job will be a smooth operation.

    The movies also have different start and finish times, like airplane arrivals and departures, which prompted the question: Does Morrow ever get to see a movie all the way through?

    "When I build them I do," he said referring to the process of putting the reels together and then previewing them to make sure there are no problems with a print before it is shown to the public.

    Morrow admits that such a procedure does not lend itself to viewing a movie for fun. As a projectionist he must focus on the technical aspects of the presentation. So sometimes, on his days off, he may see a movie. He said "The Untouchables" and "Angel Heart" were two such movies.

    Another projectionist takes over when Morrow has finished what is basically an eight-hour day, five-days-a-week.

    ASIDE FROM Richland Mall, where new theaters are planned for the revamped mall, no other companies with theaters in the area have announced expansion plans. As the metro area grows, more are sure to come and, in fact, the West Columbia-Lexington area seems ripe for a multiplex.

    © 1988, 2005 The State

    Andrew

    10 Sep 11 at 5:28 pm

  32. OK, I've updated the closing date to July 2005, and added some pictures of the current situation (self storage open + funeral house sign).

    ted

    11 Sep 11 at 2:30 am

  33. I can remember seeing lots of movies here. I went here to see movies until the place closed. The last movie that I saw here was Spider Man 2 in the summer of 2004. When the movie theater in the Village at Sandhill opened, this one was closed. The first movie that I can remember that was playing at the Village at Sandill Movie theater was Star Wars Episode III, which came out in May of 2005. So the Movies at Polo must have closed sometime during the fall of 2004 to the spring of 2005. This was probably done so that the new Village at Sandhill Movie Theater could be open for the summer of 2005.

    sevin

    19 Oct 11 at 10:58 am

  34. Hey Ted. I remember Po' folks. We ate there all the time when I was a kid in the 80's. there were two locations... One on Two Notch Rd. in the vicinity of Arcadia Lakes... And the other was on Bush River Rd, right in front of Boozer Shopping Center. In fact, I believe that it was located on or near the current site of Chickfila.

    Dee Dee

    25 Jan 13 at 4:38 pm

  35. Dee Dee,

    Thanks for all the comments!

    If you check the "Alphabetical Closings" link at the top of the page, you's find the Two Notch Po Folks and a lot of other stuff..

    ted

    25 Jan 13 at 5:11 pm

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