WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - A young woman struggles to find love again after she arrives in a small North Carolina town. Of course, if you are a fan of author Nicholas Sparks, you know that is his story line of the movie Safe Haven which opened nationwide Thursday.
But you won't have to go to one of the big city movie theaters to watch it or other new films from Hollywood.
The movie theater in Whiteville is the only one in Columbus County, and it has been showing movies ever since it opened 85 years ago.
While most people will see the movie Safe Haven at the large multi-screen theaters that are located in the big cities, the Nicholas Sparks movie is on the screen right now in downtown Whiteville.
Safe Haven is just the latest of the big films that have been shown at the Whiteville Cinema over the years. The Academy Award nominated film Django Unchained just finished a multi-week run there.
Owner Jesse Fisher said the key to attracting movie watchers to his theater is to always have first run movies playing, but says it takes hard work to get the latest from Hollywood.
"We have gotten our share, or more than our share of first run movies, and the reason is if we did not have first run movies, we would not have anyone come to our movies, it is either that or nothing," said Fisher.
The Whiteville cinema building was constructed in 1928. At that time, pictures, like the Flying Duchess were shown. There were Saturday westerns as well, even the movie cowboys, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, came to town to promote their pictures, when the theater had a stage up front.
The theater has undergone several renovations, the biggest happening when it was integrated. Before that happened, whites sat in the downstairs area, blacks had their own entrance and had to sit in the balcony.
There are a total of about 300 seats, and three screens. It is an important part of the active Madison Street area of downtown Whiteville.
"We are very proud of what we have in downtown Whiteville," said Tom Stanley, director of the Downtown Whiteville Association. "And I challenge you to take Highway 74, from Wilmington to Charlotte, and you will not find another town that is as vibrant as downtown Whiteville."
Fisher says he works several months ahead, in planning what movies he thinks will do well in Whiteville. A new Tyler Perry movie will be opening up there soon.
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