The question of a movie theater in Fuquay-Varina arose recently. Yeh, the town did have not one theater but two. The entrepreneur behind our theaters was Louis Mann Wade.
Born in Carteret County, raised in Durham, Louis married Katie and worked in Washington DC before moving to Fuquay in 1936. The first theater, Fuquay Springs Theater, also known as Wade’s Theater opened May 1, 1936 on Main Street in the area which is now parking lot below the old Fuquay bank. Mrs. W. W. Young became manager when Bennett Bullock returned to Elon College.
This theater was the site of the H. Lee Water’s Film Showing in 1937. If you have not seen this silent film of the town it is available both on-line and in our local museum audio visual collection.
While researching the Independent Collection of 1936, we confirmed that the building which housed the Fuquay Theater had previously been one of the sites for the Fuquay Springs Post Office.
Movie ads were regular features in the Independent proclaiming Monday and Tuesday with different films, Wednesday and Thursday with the same film, and Friday and Saturday as Western films. Ever inventive, another ad proclaims the “first showing in this vicinity” and gives a different showing configuration. Ticket incentives were unique as per the ads.
Unfortunately, the Fuquay theater fell victim to the fire which began in Proctor Barbour’s adjoining structure in 1946. Not to be outdone, Wade built not one but two theaters in replacement for $50,000. The Fuquay theater on Main Street (in what later became the Parker Furniture Building) seated 600 patrons, featured 6 exits on the first floor and 2 from the balcony. The new theater in the old Womble Store in Varina seated 350. The Fuquay Theater opened April, 1946 and Varina Theater that July. Wade also was involved in a theater Apex & possibly Clayton.
Wade leased the local theaters to a Charlotte chain in 1948. His son says Wade told him that beginning about 1952, drive-in theaters forced many small town theaters to lose business. We are still seeking the closing date for both of these establishments. Wade’s son thinks his father sold the building circa 1966.
If you look carefully, you can note the features of a theater on the front of Parker’s Furniture building today. It may be soon gone from our locale with new development plans scheduled for the area.
The Wades lived in the Daughtry House, located beside what is now our museum until they moved into what is known as the Wade-Dale House at 508 E. Academy. Katie Wade and her husband were involved in local housing development off Ennis Street.
Wade was active in the Fuquay Lion’s Club but because of his business enterprises missed meetings so frequently, he often got to “host” the goat given to the member who missed the most meetings each month. His second little known business, the Wade Bus Line was formed in 1942. That will remain a subject for later but you can visit the museums and view the bus schedule.