‘Movie Theaters’ explores state

Palmetto State movie theater historians Mark Tiedje and John Coles of Mount Pleasant, authors of “Movie Theaters of Charleston,” are back with their latest comprehensive tome, “Movie Theaters of South Carolina.”

Ten years in the making, the new book tells the story of South Carolina’s single-screen movie theaters and, in the process, a large part of the story of 20th-century culture.

Tiedje and Coles visited more than 30 cities and towns across the state, driving more than 12,000 miles, and invested countless hours scanning reels of microfilm while also chancing to meet a variety of interesting people.

“If you want to understand the 20th century, study the movie theater,” says Coles, who maintains www.scmovie theatres.com with Tiedje.

The new book is “distilled from a rich mixture of travel, encounters, conversations, adventures, surprises, disappointments, discoveries, connections and lingering mysteries,” say the authors. “But the book could never share with the reader the full depth and texture of the experiences we had. Those experiences are our reward.”

Tiedje is the former media relations coordinator for the College of Charleston School of the Arts. Coles, a one-time film animator for SCETV and media arts professor at the University of South Carolina, contributed significantly to the project.

They write convincingly that what the railroad was to the 19th century, the movie theater was to the 20th century, uniting the country culturally and socially.

The two historians note that the state’s first theaters built for movies opened in 1915 and that by 1930 there were 200 single-screen theaters in South Carolina.

Before the coming of the multiplex, they ruled.

“Movie Theaters of South Carolina” is available for $14.95 from www. amazon.com.