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Dutch Square Theater, 511 Bush River Road: 1990s   27 comments

Posted at 4:30 pm in closing

Too late to get a picture of this place I'm afraid. The original Dutch Square Theater was a twin-plex set against the far back corner of the Dutch Square parking lot. I believe it opened more or less at the same time the original Dutch Square mall did, and there was nothing particularly distinctive about it. It ran standard, first-run movies, and sold the standard theater food items at standard (high!) theater food prices. Since the place was on the other side of town from where I lived, it was not one of my regular movie spots, though I did see a number of shows there over the years.

It does have the distinction of being the only theater I've ever walked out on a movie at. The year was 1987, and my sister and a friend of hers were going to see Light of Day with Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett and asked if I wanted to tag along. Well, I knew nothing about the film, but I was of course familiar with Michael J. Fox and his classic "Marty" films, and I enjoyed Joan Jett's music, and had heard she was quite the character in real life, so I was expecting some kind of rock-and-roll comedy. Um, no. What I got instead was the most depressing drama I had ever had the misfortune to view. After about half an hour, I muttered something like "see y'all after the show" to my sister and walked out. Seeing the sunshine again was like having a leaden weight lifted off of me, and I spent a happy hour and a half just bumming around Dutch Square.

Not too long after that, Tapps closed, and Dutch Square's decline accelerated finally leading to re-development, complete with a new AMC 14 screen multiplex. Thus obsoleted, the original Dutch Square Theater was torn down, and now a Ruby Tuesday operates in the same location. And all the Ruby Tuesday training videos I've seen played in their stores are better than "Light of Day.

UPDATE 13 September 2009: Added theater ad from The State 15 April 1973.

UPDATE 12 May 2020 -- Adding full street address to the post title, also updating tags and adding map icon.

27 Responses to 'Dutch Square Theater, 511 Bush River Road: 1990s'

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  1. May I have permission to put some of the pictures on your website in our vertical files?

    I am trying to keep up with the downtown closings. These pics would really compliment that project.

    Dead Librarian

    10 Jul 08 at 9:59 am

  2. Sure, no problem.

    The pics on the main page are low res, to get the full res ones, right click and do "save link as".


    10 Jul 08 at 10:14 am

  3. Wasn't that theatre and the one at the old Richland Mall the same.

    Mr Bill

    11 Jul 08 at 9:25 am

  4. I don't think so. Richland Mall was built earlier, was advertised as "The Rocking-Chair Theater", and had a time capsule.


    11 Jul 08 at 9:30 am

  5. I remember seeing 'The Empire Strikes Back' there.

    Three times, actually - the first night, I fell asleep, so we went back the next weekend. Then 3 weeks later, I saw it for a friends birthday.

    Then after the movie was over, we'd raid Barrel Of Fun until our parents got sick of the mall.


    12 Jul 08 at 1:19 pm

  6. Hehehe. I saw "9 To 5", the Neil Diamond version of "The Jazz Singer", and "The Goonies" at the Dutch Square theater with my aunt who lived in Lexington for 35 years until moving to Tennessee...

    Mike, formerly of Columbia, now from Toronto, ON, Canada

    29 Jul 08 at 1:01 pm

  7. I saw many, many great films on those screens: the opening night of Jaws in '75 stands out, as do a double feature in 1980: Being There and All That Jazz, two amazing films back to back (and yes I went out and then paid to get back in).

    I miss all the old movie houses on Main St as well. The news that Nickelodeon is moving into the old Fox Theatre is very exciting.

    James D. McCallister

    9 Aug 08 at 4:35 pm

  8. I remember seeing the opening of Jaws there. The line went way across the parking lot.


    23 Aug 08 at 8:08 am

  9. Jaws was the first movie I saw at Dutch Square Theatre. My family had just moved to South Carolina. I was 15, had left friends I'd known since kindegarten and was bored out of my mind. Great memories of taking high school dates to that theatre.


    29 Aug 08 at 8:27 am

  10. 1995's "Showgirls" had to be one of the last films shown at Dutch Square Theater. I'd just moved to Columbia and DST was the only theater in town showing this atrocity. It was the B-film where "Saved By The Bell" Elizabeth Berkley showed her stuff. I remember there was only about three people in the theater and it was in horrible shape by then.


    26 Dec 08 at 2:24 am

  11. Nice comment from the person above regarding Empire Strikes Back! I remember seeing the movie at the theater in May 1980 on opening weekend with my family. Good times indeed.

    Also, remember playing at the Hardees' playground nearby (the had this huge "robot" you could climb inside that included two slide shoots for legs).

    Nice trip down memory lane!

    Rob (from Atlanta)

    3 Jun 09 at 3:03 pm

  12. I own the movie "Light of Day" and from what I can see the movie is not as well known. And besides, Michael J. Fox will always be known as Marty McFly to me!

    James Greek

    22 Jun 09 at 5:11 pm

  13. Oh and another thing! I am glad to hear about old 80s movies when they were first released!

    James Greek

    22 Jun 09 at 5:14 pm

  14. Wow, how had the mighty fallen. I vividly remember when this was the premiere first-run theater in the Columbia area. I'll never forget in the summer of 1975 seeing JAWS in huge red letters on the rear marquee of this theater. Also, in 1980 I talked my dad into taking me to see The Empire Strikes Back here on opening night. We stood in line around the building (literally), but got in. What parents won't do for their kids.
    I also remember it going very badly to seed in the mid-1990s. The last movies I recall seeing there were Se7en (to a near empty auditorium) and The Rock (ugh, what a lousy movie). When I moved to the Rosewood area in 1997 I never went back, and soon it was gone. Oh, the memories.

    59 Ford Wheelman

    14 Oct 09 at 4:29 pm

  15. I went to this theater once. My sixth grade class took a field trip to see Malcolm X there. My mom was there to chaperon. lol memories.


    7 Jul 10 at 8:03 am

  16. It's where I Star Wars for the first time.


    10 Aug 10 at 5:05 am

  17. I saw Star Wars there for the first time as well. I remember many of the summer children's movies playing and I guess my mom would drop me off and go shopping. All the Don Knotts/Tim Conway movies that I still love showing my boys. Apple Dumpling Gang, etc. I remember running around the back of the theater under the marquee and looking down on KMart/Hardees. You could never get away with that now.


    10 Aug 10 at 9:00 am

  18. In highschool, around '84, '85, we would drive in from Sumter to check out the midnight movies all the time... watched "The Wall" and "Rocky Horror" many times there... one time I got busted trying to sneak in a 10lb bag of rice.


    24 Mar 11 at 12:30 pm

  19. This was a great theater in it's heyday. I saw Empire Strikes Back here and remember the "summer movies" for kids. Does anyone remember the the black and white Batman serials before the movie?

    This theater started out as a twin but sometime in the 80's they split one of the theaters into two. I always liked the "big theater" with two aisles and seating left right and center.


    9 Apr 11 at 11:33 am

  20. I also saw Star Wars there. I tried to see it in all of the theaters in Columbia, as Columbia Mall was my home base for movies. I saw Jaws at the original Richland Mall theaters when it was where the Bank of America is now, or somewhere down on that corner. That was when Richland Mall was an open air mall.


    26 May 11 at 2:40 pm

  21. I also saw Star Wars there. I tried to see it in all of the theaters were it played in Columbia. Columbia Mall was my home base for movies. I saw Jaws at the original Richland Mall theaters when it was where the Bank of America is now, or somewhere down on that corner. That was when Richland Mall was an open air mall.


    26 May 11 at 2:41 pm

  22. This place was the first and only time I saw a movie in the morning timed so you wouldn't be too late for work. Back then, I always made it a point to go to the first showing of any Star Trek Movie and they were showing "The Voyage Home" at 7am on a work-day. I got there at 5am and was first in line only by 15 minutes.

    Some fellas drove up and said they were going for some coffee and asked if I wanted some. I said yes and was joined by them in a few minutes. When they opened, they served donuts.

    This was also the first time I've ever been in a theater with true, dedicated fans. Since this was one of the good Star Trek flicks, there was LOTS of cheering.

    Altogether, very fun and I was only 1/2 hour late for work.


    28 Oct 13 at 8:13 am

  23. I remember driving up Bush River Rd. and making sure to get a look at the marquee for what was new. I would cop a smile everytime I passed and saw James Bond's "Octopussy"....


    19 Nov 14 at 12:30 pm

  24. I remember going to the first showing of Star Trek 4: The voyage home at Dutch Square at 7am. Was able to get back to work a little after 9am. I was first in line arriving at 5am but only by 5 minutes. Rather than popcorn, they served coffee & donuts. It's great to be in a theater with serious fans.


    17 Jan 16 at 6:58 pm

  25. Darn it, didn't see that I already posted this......


    17 Jan 16 at 6:59 pm

  26. @MrBO - don't feel bad about a double post - I have done it many times. Memories sometimes come back when you least expect them.


    18 Jan 16 at 4:31 am

  27. I was 15 in 1973 and lived across the street where the Columbia Mall would soon be built. My Mother told me to get a job one Sunday and I got mad and went across town to see West World playing at Dutch Square Theatre. After buying my $1.25 ticket for the movie, I asked, "How does a guy get a job around here?" I filled it out an application and got a call at 6pm that evening. I got the job as a doorman. Mr. Shaw was the theatre manager and his son David was the projectionist. Men Shaw was a very professional Man and his Son David was a very cool dude and he drive a badass Gold Roadrunner with a Hurst shifter and a big rear fin on his Super Bird. I had a 1971 Ford Pinto. lol

    Not long after I began, Jaws came out and the lines were around the parking lot. The Exorcist also came out about that time and that scared the crap out of me. I'd have to check the theatre doors at night and the Exorcist poster was in the wall and I had to walk the dark theatre toward the Green Exit door light. Needless to say, I walked quickly up the theatre floor after checking the doors, and if course David Shaw decided to jump from behind one of the rocking theatre chairs as I was fast walking toward the lobby and I lost one of my 9 lives that evening. That reminds me, since it was a rocking chair theatre, I always walked to the back of the Jaws side of the movie theatre, at the time the head popped through the hole in the sunken boat. The entire theatre simultaneously rocked back at the same time...every single time! lol
    I guess the statute if limitations has passed, so now I can tell everyone we had rats the size of small dogs at the theatre. The area was a grass field before the theatre was constructed, so they just stuck around after the theatre was built. I was never bothered by them, they're actually very cool little animals. They never hurt anyone...

    I played football at Spring Valley, so Mr. Shaw allowed me to work on weekends during the season. I met my first girl friend working at the theatre, a she worked the ticket booth. I think she was attracted to my bright orange jacket. I broke my right thumb on the first play my Senior year and had a cast on my arm. I learned how to tear movie tickets with just my left hand and I think that impressed her too!
    I have a soft place in my heart for the Dutch Square Theatre and the people that worked there. Come to think of it, I should write a book about my life while working at the double theatre. $1.25 an hour, was a living wage in 1973.

    Kevin Weisinger

    3 Mar 24 at 12:36 am

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