A weekend hotspot for Lynchburg residents from the 1960s until the early 1990s is being demolished.
The old Plaza Theater, on the corner of Judith and Wadsworth streets at the edge of the Plaza shopping center, is in the process of being torn down due to its state of disrepair.
The shopping center is owned by LU Plaza Holdings LLC. Craig Pettitt, vice president of real estate at Liberty University, said the demolition of the nearly 16,000-square-foot building has long been in the works.
“It will look better gone,” he said. “It was in a state of disrepair due to hazardous waste and mold in the building. The best option was to demolish it and get it down and out of there for the safety of everyone.”
The shopping center opened as Pittman Plaza in 1960. The theater opened in November 1963 and closed in 1992. It has not been occupied since then.
The Plaza shopping center still has another movie theater in its lower level: Venue Cinemas, which opened in November 2016.
Pettitt said there is no plan for development for the old theater's space, but it makes way for a new opportunity in the future.
The $136,000 theater was built by C.L. Lewis & Co. and was operated by the Charlotte, N.C. chain of Stewart & Everett Theaters Inc. It had 764 seats in three sections and no balcony, according to archives from The News & Advance.
George Smith stood Thursday morning looking at the old theater and watching crews from WEL Inc. begin tearing down parts of the theater he gained so many memories from.
“It’s sort of heart-wrenching,” he said. “It brings back memories because I remember the Plaza as it once was. The Sears was here, everything was here in this one general location. This is the last, so to speak, of the Mohicans.”
He said news of the demolition was a “total shock” to him.
In its heyday, Smith remembers coming to the theater on the weekends to catch a movie or two. Sundays were the best day to come, he said, because of the matinees.
He doesn’t know what should be built in the theaters place but thinks the area needs another grocery store since Super Dollar Discount Foods in the Plaza closed in Feb. 2018.
Ann Iñiguez, a Lynchburg resident, said she has fond memories of going to see movies in the theater as a child.
“It is a shame that the building was left empty all these years and has to be torn down, although if it is unsafe, I can see why,” she said. “I remember waiting in line in the early ‘80s to see movies like ‘Splash’ and how the line extended a few stores back.”
From the archives: Pittman Plaza
Right at the start of its highly anticipated opening in 1960, Pittman Plaza became the retail destination for the Lynchburg area for more than the next two decades. The shopping center started on land adjacent to a then-new Sears Roebuck & Co. (now the Lynchburg Public Library), and grew in stages to encompass more than two dozen stores -- including Leggett's, Miller & Rhoads and J.C. Penney -- as well as a bowling alley and movie theater.
1950s Sears and Miller Home
1958-06-04 Shopping Center Layout
1959 Miller Home
1959 Miller Home razing
1959-05-27 Old Miller home razed
092259 Pittman Plaza Groundbreaking
1959-09-21 Breaking Ground
1959-06-15 Site work
1959-06-15 Site work
1959-08-16 Grading of old Miller Home property
1959-11-09 Work Starts On Pittman Plaza
1959 Pittman Plaza
1959-12-11 Pittman Plaza Storm Drain
1959-12-12 Pittman Plaza Takes Shape
1959-12-29 Pittman Plaza Takes Shape
1960-02-25 Walls Rise at Pittman Plaza shopping center
1960-04-07 More stores for Pittman Plaza
1960-06-29 Pittman Plaza
1960-07-16 Pittman, Pittman, Williams
1960-08-12 Pittman Plaza Lynchburg Bowl
1960-09-22 Pittman Plaza From Above
1960-09-22 Pittman Plaza
1960s Miller & Rhoads
1960-11-17 Pittman Plaza Aerial
1960-11-18 Grand opening
1961-07-16 Contest Winner
1961-03-26 He Works in a Shoe
1961-04-25 Pirate Treasure Winner
1961-04-20 During Ribbon-Cutting Ceremonies
1962-09-09 Grading underway
1962-09-21 Site of proposed theater
1962-10-25 Plaza theatre rendering
1962-11-23 Mrs. Santa Claus Arrives
1963-06-12 Theater Framework Rises
1963-07-31 Show Stopper
1963-10-09 Penney Building Goes Up
1964-07-16 Goin' My Way?
1964-10-15 Last Supper Display
1964-11-28 Mrs. Santa Claus Takes Orders
1965 09-08 Machine Age
1965-09-18 Americans in Action
1965-04-30 They Help Plaza Celebrate
1966-06-13 Plaza Bus Service
1967-06-10 Safety-Rama Bike Check
1967-11-24 Mrs. Santa Pleased
1969-04-30 Plaza Anniversary
1969-07-19 - All Aboard
1970-01-12 Water line break
1971-04-29 'Petting' zoo popular
1971-11-26 Mrs. Santa arrives
1973-04-30 Beautification Project
1976-04-17 Easter Bunny Time
1977-01-15 Ice storm
1977-11-14 Getting Ready for Mrs. Claus
1977-12-26 Before the post-holiday rush
1978-11-24 Quiet Before Storm
1978-12-26 Shopping cart
1970s Plaza Mini Mall
1960-11-09 Parking lot full
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