Ritz Theatre

150 E. Thomas Street,
Rocky Mount, NC 27801

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Bijou Amusement Company

Functions: Church

Previous Names: Manhattan Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Ritz Theatre

The Ritz Theatre opened in 1950. It was operated by Bijou Amusement Co. Seating was listed at 299.

This was an African American theatre. It was located several doors down from the Booker-T Theatre.

The Ritz Theatre closed in 1975 and is now used as a church.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Patsy
Patsy on June 16, 2010 at 10:31 pm

If a church owns this former theatre, I hope it doesn’t look like the photo!

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on June 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I bet it does.Looks like a church in that photo.Not a nice looking church but a church anyway.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 28, 2010 at 9:33 pm

You sure that picture isn’t from Mexico.reminds me of several i saw in the seventies.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on June 28, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Thats what I thought Mike but did not want to say it.

NightHawk1
NightHawk1 on December 1, 2011 at 1:34 am

This theatre has received a facelift as part of a block redevelopment project that included the nearby Booker-T Theatre. The Ritz was also known as the Manhattan Theatre (which is the name most locals use).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 15, 2014 at 6:43 am

The April 13, 1929, issue of Motion Picture News had this item:

“W. E. Armstrong, operator of the Manhattan, Rocky Mount, N. C, expects to open his new house there in the next sixty days with sound.”
I believe this new house was the Savoy-Booker T Theatre.

The Manhattan Theatre was listed in city directories at 118 W. Thomas Street. The address was listed as vacant in the 1930 directory, but the Manhattan Theatre was listed there in the 1934 and 1936 directories. The Manhattan must have closed for a while after the Savoy was opened. The Ritz first appears in the 1948 directory, but at 133 W. Thomas (I think this might have been an error, as the Ritz is listed at 120 W. Thomas beginning with the 1950 directory.)

I don’t know if the address of the building was shifted from 118 to 120 sometime between 1936 and 1950, or if the Ritz was actually next door to the site of the Manhattan. There are currently no adjacent buildings.

In any case, the modern address of the theater is 150 W. Thomas, as can be seen in Street View. This web site has a brief history of the neighborhood and has short videos of the Booker T and Manhattan Theatres, showing photos of the buildings before and after the recent renovations.

NightHawk1
NightHawk1 on February 21, 2014 at 12:58 am

The address should be 150 East Thomas Street if the Ritz Theatre and the Manhattan Theatre are the same. The Manhattan and Booker T Theaters are east of the railroad tracks in Edgecombe County; the tracks divide East Thomas Street (Edgecombe County) from West Thomas Street (Nash County). Locals never refer to the Manhattan Theatre as the Ritz; the Ritz could have been a different theater. East Thomas Street was Rocky Mount’s primary African-American business district during the days of segregation.

SethG
SethG on January 1, 2023 at 10:44 pm

Things have been moved around a lot, or rather the numbers have. Both the 1956 map and the 2008 NRHP listing have the address as 122, but it was changed when the theater was remodeled. It’s currently a computer repair business, with small business spaces in the rear of the building, which have their own entrances in the east wall. If anyone can find the original 1980 NRHP photos, they apparently show it with a marquee, which had been torn off by 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, nearly the entire block, which was composed of derelict one story commercial buildings of no particular architectural value, was demolished, and the theater was restored and given the 150 address.

Due to the coverage gap in maps, all I can offer to the Manhattan/Ritz issue is that the block was almost entirely empty on the 1917 map. The 1956 map shows 118, just west of the theater, to be a large one story restaurant, wider than the theater, with an awning on the front. It’s possible this was the original (only?) Manhattan.

SethG
SethG on January 1, 2023 at 11:16 pm

I should note that the NRHP listing only calls this the Manhattan, and that Chuck’s listings are often riddled with errors.

The NRHP listing makes no mention of a Ritz at all, and Joe’s information suggests it was on the south side of the street.

The E/W conflict is strange, as this was never W Thomas. It’s shown simply as Thomas in 1896-1901, and by 1907, the E/W division is at the railroad.

118 W Thomas on the 1917 Map is a house, which by 1956 had become 122, there then being no 118 at all. A 133 W Thomas address never existed. 101 was the only address on W Thomas at all in 1917, and it was a small garage likely belonging to a house at 198 N Main. In 1956, that garage had become a little shop with a 125 address, and the rest of the block belonged to the church on N Church St. Even on the 1956 map, W Thomas is almost entirely residential. The south side of the block of E Thomas where the Manhattan and Booker-T are was a huge tobacco warehouse.

SethG
SethG on January 1, 2023 at 11:29 pm

Since the old picture is missing, I uploaded one I took years ago, while remodeling was nearly complete. All I’m willing to say is that it’s a picture of the theater at 150 E Thomas. Pretty sure it’s the Manhattan, but it might be the Ritz, or maybe they really were the same thing?

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