The Jefferson Theater
Updated: Apr 30
April 29, 2021
The Jefferson, located on the Downtown Mall, is Charlottesville’s oldest theater. History
The building that now houses the Jefferson Theater was originally built in 1901 as a bank. It was then sold and reopened in 1912 as a "live performance theater that played host to silent movies, vaudeville acts and a historic list of live performers, ranging from Harry Houdini to The Three Stooges."
The theater was damaged in a fire in 1915 and renovated by C.K. Howell, the architect who also designed the architecture of the Empire and National theaters in Richmond.
In 1969, a group of local businessmen purchased the building and re-named it the Cinema Theater and by the late 1970s it had acquired a reputation for showing so many x-rated films that locals nicknamed it "the Skinema."
In 1983 owner Alton Martin sealed off the mezzanine to create the upstairs theater, renamed it the "Movie Palace," and began showing second-run films.
In January 1984, the Peanut Gallery balcony became its own auditorium, with 184 stadium seated seats and a movie screen 12.5 high x 23 feet wide. The main floor auditorium of 369 seats has a movie screen 12 feet high x 26.5 feet tall.
Martin passed away and Hawes Spencer purchased the building in 1992.
In 1993, the theatre returned to its original name, the Jefferson Theater.
The building's most recent renovations were begun after its June 2006 closing. It was the result of a purchase by Coran Capshaw.
The theater reopened on November 27, 2009 with a concert by the band So s of Bill. Features
The architectural style of the both the interior and the exterior of the Jefferson Theater are Adam-style Classicism, known for classical Roman decorative motifs.
Since the 2009 remodeling, the Jefferson Theater has been equipped with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, new restrooms, a restored balcony, and two full-service bars.