The Capri Theater

The Capri Theatre, located in downtown Gaffney, is more than an entertainment venue. It is a part of Cherokee county history—and for one Gaffney family, it is the centerpiece of a lifetime lived with deep roots in the local community. It is where owners Clyde and Mary Hudson’s children and grandchildren took their first steps, and it was through recent changes at the theater that the Hudsons demonstrated their willingness to “take first steps” in local downtown redevelopment.

The building itself is a historic part of the city. Its original function was as a horse stable. Later, it was the home of Becker’s Bakery. In 1936, it became a single-screen movie theatre called the Cherokee Theatre. In 1969, Clyde and Mary Hudson bought the theatre, remodeled it, and reopened it under the name the Capri Theatre.

The Hudsons still own the Capri. Their son, Beau, grew up in the theatre, where he now serves as booking manager.

“I took my first steps in this building,” said Beau Hudson. “My brother’s children have taken their first steps [here]; and now I have a daughter who’s almost six months and she’s been hanging out up here with us. It’s a real family effort.”

Beau Hudson got his start at the Capri helping his father pop popcorn. “I was six, seven years old standing on top of a crate popping popcorn in between the movies,” Hudson said of his childhood at the Capri. “There was a firehouse across the road. I would run popcorn over to [the firefighters] and they would let me play on the truck.”

In addition to his duties at the theatre, Hudson is now a lieutenant at the Gaffney Fire Department.

Though the theatre has undergone changes and revisions, the Capri has consistently been the place that Gaffney goes to see a show.

“It’s always been the entertainment [hub] for downtown,” said Hudson.

When experts from Clemson and local Gaffney decision makers began looking for ways to revitalize Gaffney’s downtown, the Hudsons were ready with a business plan. According to Hudson, the family was looking for a way to move away from showing only films. They saw the film industry declining and they wanted a way to keep the Capri vital.

Hudson said they were the first business in Gaffney to embrace the downtown revitalization efforts. They relaunched the Capri as a venue for live entertainment including trivia nights, musicians, and stand up comedians, but they didn’t forget the role films played in their past. Now, the Capri is host to screenings of independent, locally created films.

“We’re still doing independent films,” said Hudson—“films where small producers from Charlotte [North Carolina] and Greenville [South Carolina] will use actors and film crews from each town.… They like to meet in the middle here at the theatre because they have people working from Charlotte and Greenville so this is a good place for them to meet to show their films.”

Hudson said they host independent films three to five times a year.

The changes have proven a draw and visitors come from as far away as Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida to watch shows at the Capri.

Hudson said, “Folks come here and say, ‘Wow! We don’t have this in Greenville. We don’t have this in Charlotte…you guys really have something unique.”

He said that at a recent event featuring comedians Taylor Strecker and Kenny Zimlinghaus, he did a survey to see where attendees live. Of 164 attendees, only four hailed from Gaffney and many were from outside South Carolina.

December and January Events at The Capri Theatre:

All photos courtesy of the Capri Theater.

Jennifer Reynolds is a freelance writer based in Greenville, SC. In addition to writing for business publications, she writes humor under the pen name Nora Blithe. Read more at doorinface.com

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