2019 04 13 Historic Movie Theatres of West Virginia

On Saturday, April 13, 2019, Dr. Kelli Shapiro presented “The Evolution of the West Virginia Movie Theatre” in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston.

Based on her 2018 book for Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, Historic Movie Theatres of West Virginia, Shapiro’s lecture covers the evolution of movie theatres in the Mountain State. West Virginia contained an impressive diversity of movie theatres in the 20th century ranging from multipurpose auditoriums in company towns to early nickelodeons and from ornate, urban picture palaces to neighborhood movie houses and suburban drive-ins. In the state’s working-class areas, as well as in upscale districts where industry barons lived, residents came together to find amusement and relaxation in these venues. Many of these theatres have since disappeared, while others sit vacant or have been converted for other uses. Some, however, have been reopened or restored. They proudly provide their communities with entertainment today, whether showing films or hosting the performing arts. They serve as catalysts for local revitalization and as success stories showcasing the value of historic preservation.

Dr. Shapiro is the program associate for the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), the statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation in the Mountain State. One of its programs is the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail, a heritage tourism initiative promoting the rehabilitation and sustainable operation of the state’s historic theatres for the enjoyment of the public.

Shapiro began appreciating the need for historic preservation, public history interpretation, and heritage tourism while growing up in a California town located along the famed Route 66. She received an M.A. in museum studies and a PhD in American civilization, both from Brown University, as well as a graduate certificate in public history from Texas State University. Before moving to West Virginia in 2015 to join PAWV, she served as an employee, intern, student worker, and/or volunteer at multiple history-oriented institutions including several museums, an urban historic preservation organization, an archive, and an academic center devoted to public history.


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