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Gamecock Theater, 906 Axtell Drive: 1990s   14 comments

Posted at 11:57 pm in closing

Parkland Plaza is on Knox Abbot Drive just across the bridge from USC (and now, though not then, The State Museum). It's an interesting retail venue, neither thriving, nor totally down on its luck. Over the years lots of businesses have come and gone. Probably the most significant of these was Parkland Pharmacy, which was an old-fashioned rural style drug/general/we-do-everything store which also housed a contract post-office with a wall full of PO Boxes. It eventually sold out and a CVS now occupies the spot.

The other significant business, or significant to me at any rate, was the Gamecock Theater. The Gamecock was on the East side of the plaza and was always a rather small operation rather than anything with pretensions to being a "Movie House". At some point, even the rather limited original space was partitioned, and the place became a duplex with the name becoming, if I recall correctly, The Gamecock Twin Cinemas or something to that effect.

Since The Gamecock was on the other side of town from where I grew up, we only saw a couple of movies there when I was a kid, and I can't recall now what they were. However, when I was in college, it was fairly accessible from The Towers, where I was living. Of course, the Russell House was even closer, and while the theater there was in its glory days, I sometimes saw 4 movies a week there, but those were all classics and The Gamecock was first-run. At various times, a group of us would find a car and go over, but I can clearly recall only two movies that I saw there during college.

The first was The Seduction, a 1982 flick starring Morgan Fairchild. At the time, Morgain Fairchild was in a very popular TV series, which I never saw, and the name of which I forget. I was aware that she was the show's sex symbol and when my roomate and I saw that she had her first big screen outing and that it was rated 'R', we figured (especially given the title!) that there was a good chance that she would not be over-burdened with clothes, and that seemed like a sufficient reason to scrape up the bucks and transportation.

Well, that was true -- in fact several times she was not-overburdened to the point of not being burdened at all, but while that was nice (very nice actually) we gradually became aware, as we looked at each other with incredulity from time to time, that this was an awful movie. Not, "well, it really wasn't that good" awful, but "did they really shoot that whole scene with the boom mike clearly in view?" awful. It was something of a trifecta in fact: Bad writing, bad acting and bad production values. I still don't understand how Fairchild couldn't leverage her small-screen popularity into a decent vehicle. I mean, it's not like she couldn't take her clothes off in a movie with a competent crew and a script that at least made sense!

The final movie I saw at The Gamecock was Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold. This was in 1984, and if I recall the timing correctly, I had just finished final exams and was exhausted and wanting a fun popcorn flick. The whole ad campaign for Yellow Hair, inasmuch as it had one, was to position it as a low budget "Indiana Jones" type movie, which was fine by me. As it turned out, the campaign had little to nothing to do with the movie, which was really (as comments on IMDB suggest) a late Spaghetti Western. The titular character "Yellow Hair" was a blond Indian "half-breed" and the rickety plot reached its climax with her finding out that her parents had loved one another (rather than her being a child of rape as she had been led to believe). Along the way, she had some Zorro-ish adventures (Disney Zorro-ish), but really not the non-stop cheesy action the posters implied. I was let down, but this movie was a first for me in a way -- it was the first time I was the only person in a theater! That's happened several times since and sometimes for good movies, but I distinctly remember thinking "Not a good sign!"

With graduation, I took a job out of town and kind of lost track of the Gamecock for a while. The next time I became aware of it, I found that it had closed, had been sold, and was operating as an "Antique Mall". That's the ReSale ReVue you can see in the pictures. As such things go, it was OK (I think I bought an old phone there), but with several very large Antique Malls in the Vista, and one just down the street, I suppose they really couldn't make a go of it. Now the space is empty, and I can't think of any theaters at all in West Columbia or Cayce.

UPDATE 12 September 2009: Added an ad for The Gamecock Theater from the 15 April 1973 State newspaper.

UPDATE 2 September 2020: Change the post title address from "Parkland Plaza Cayce" to the full street address. Add map icon, update tags.

14 Responses to 'Gamecock Theater, 906 Axtell Drive: 1990s'

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  1. When I joined the Air Force in 1992, they put us up at the ratty motel across the street the night before we went to basic. We walked over and saw Boomerang (not my idea). If I recall correctly, it was Eddie Murphy's first attempt at romantic comedy. I do remember that it was a cheap ticket and the theater was a little run down but not a bad venue for what we paid.

    Joe Verant

    15 May 08 at 6:16 am

  2. Yep, IMDB puts Boomerang in 1992. I think maybe Coming To America in 1988 was his first rom-com though. Somehow I never ended up seeing either one..

    If you mean the ratty motel with the Cinderella carriage out front, that's closed now too


    15 May 08 at 3:46 pm

  3. I frequently went to this theater back in the 70s when it was in it's heyday. I think it was owned by the same person as the old Dutch Square theater & both were converted to twins about the same time.

    I remember it fondly because it was the only local commercial venue to show some of the old classics, usually during the summer months. I pleasantly surprised my dates with Casablanca. the Adventures of Robin Hood, Dark Victory & others. While it didn't have the cachet the cavernous theaters on main st did, sitting close to the front for these movies was something else. the memory of seeing Bette Davis's face six feet tall with tears welling up is hard to forget.

    The Sunday matinee was a buck fifty back then. I sure got my moneys worth.

    John R

    18 May 08 at 9:01 am

  4. I spent a lot of childhood afternoons seeing their old double features of the old serials like "The Claw" and I think some featuring Batman and the Shadow.

    Eventually the stopped showing things like that and tried just to show whatever was the big movies at the time so I also remember watching Tim Burton's Batman and the animated Transformers movie there when I was a kid as well.


    18 May 08 at 7:29 pm

  5. Interesting to hear the kinds of classics they used to play. I had no idea! That's the kind of stuff I saw 4 nights a week at the Russell House while I was in college.


    19 May 08 at 1:27 am

  6. During the summers, my brother & I spent most of our time in Parkland Plaza and across the street in the park - - that was our "Summer Camp" since both parents worked full time managing restaurants. No summer vacation for them (or us!)... our main store was the Steak 'n Egg Kitchen that was located beside the Lizards Thicket on Knox Abbott - altho we were were there long before the LT! Anyway - I believe this theater was just named the Parkland Theater originally - - I never heard it called the Gamecock Theater until after they started building all those apartments back behind the plaza... I always felt that was rather presumptious of the folks at USC! Didn't they know that these were the Parkland Theaters???? They had nothing to do with USC or the Gamecocks!!! :-) My brother & I grew up there thru the 60-70's because we didn't go to camp in the summers, and we lived (what was then...) a long way out in the country! We all piled into the car & drove into Cayce at 5:30 a.m. each morning and then every evening at about 6:30 p.m., we would head back out of town! 7 days a week! That's a LOT of hours to fill!!!! So we saw pretty much every movie that came thru that was rated G (& occasionally PG!) during that time period. We played for hours in Guinyard park & in the back of the restaurant and occassionally at the bowling alley - altho we didn't bowl & Mom told us that a bowling alley was a rather unsavory place & we weren't supposed to be in there anyway!! But they had a great A/C system!!!!! Sometimes we would just go in for the air, hang by the door for a few minutes & then leave before we were "tainted" by the unsavoryness of it all! HA Spent lots of time at the Pharmacy too - - I knew better than any of the clerks what inventory they had! Occassionally we would get a hot dog at the little pub that was on the corner - I can't remember the name of it... Was it Bullfinch's? Bull something? Can't remember... But it wrapped the corner space with the door right at the corner.... had a little counter were we would eat our hotdogs & watch everyone/thing go by thru the huge plateglass windows. There was a little back dining room that I only got to go into 1 time - when I was much older & our step-dad took us in!! I loved that they had chairs at those little back tables that looked like huge barrels! I thought that was just so cool! But we kids couldn't go in there unaccompanied by an adult & our folks were always working, so we weren't allowed back there, darn it! I think that place is still there... can't recall... oh well.... Parkland Plaza used to be such a neat little place.... don't care for much of it now tho... no charm.

    Lisa B.

    30 May 08 at 2:21 pm

  7. There's definitely still some sort of restaurant on the corner of the plaza. I've never been in there, but it's definitely a local type of joint, not a chain.


    30 May 08 at 4:03 pm

  8. Lisa B. - great story. We grew up in a time when kids could try out their independence during the summers, and no one thought their parents were negligent.

    The Restuarant on the corner is the Kingsman, a pretty good (and popular) "meat 'n' three" lunch place that has been there a loong time.


    25 Aug 08 at 8:56 am

  9. I worked at the Gamecock Theatre along with my friend Ron around 1979. This was a pretty cool job to have except for clean up. We'd take the huge blowers and blow all the popcorn boxes and drink cups from the back row all the way down to the front. Then we'd sweep them into large garbage bags and haul them to the dumpster.
    I also remember when Monty Python's Life of Brian was scheduled to come to the theatre, but Strom Thurmond banned it. We got a few calls about that.
    I think there was a bowling alley next door. My friend Jimmy worked there and he'd set us up with free burgers.

    Captain Dave

    20 May 09 at 8:49 am

  10. The Gamecock Theater was owned by the same company (Roth Theaters) that owned Jefferson Square and Dutch Square Theaters back when I worked at Jefferson Square. This was back in the early 90's. The employees from Jefferson Square and The Gamecock would switch shifts, etc. So I spent a few nights working there. For whatever reason, they liked to show older movies at the Gamecock and Jefferson Square.

    Billy Hains

    1 Sep 09 at 12:20 am

  11. The Clyde Ellisor Advertising Scholarship is named in memory of the man who ran Jefferson Square and The Gamecock throughout the 80s. He was a really nice and well-liked guy. Did lots of volunteer work.


    1 Sep 09 at 3:08 am

  12. I mentioned it elsewhere, but it properly belongs here:

    I saw my first Terry Gilliam flick at The Gamecock: Time Bandits.

    The film left such a profound impression on me, it has become inextricably intertwined with Parkland Plaza, the trees across the parking lot, and the sky above those trees, that day as we walked out of the cinema, to the car. Such a humble little venue for such an existential enlightenment.


    10 Jun 10 at 3:03 pm

  13. The Indie Grits film festival is hosting a concert in this old movie theater Saturday night. Columbia's band of the moment, Toro Y Moi, is playing. Really interested in seeing how the inside of this place looks.


    13 Apr 11 at 8:06 am

  14. Back in the day the Gamecock was famous for running the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor movie "Silver Streak" for something like a year or more, and also host to midnight Friday showings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," which ran for several years. My memory may be off on the durations of the runs of both films, but they were both running in 1979, the year I graduated from Brookland Cayce HS just a short distance away on State Street.

    The restaurant on the corner is The Kingsman, which has been around at least since 1974.

    Jerry B

    3 Jul 11 at 9:18 pm

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