Documenting the American South


Going to the Show

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Wonderland Theatre (opened July 1907, presumed closed Jan. 1908)

The Wonderland was the first movie theater in Wilmington to open outside of the downtown area of the city. Located on North Fourth Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood, the Wonderland opened in the summer of 1907. Brooklyn was a neighborhood five blocks north of downtown Wilmington and separated from it by the railroad cut through which the main tracks into and out of Wilmington ran. North Fourth Street, where the Wonderland was located, was Brooklyn's commercial center. Beverly Tetterton's architectural history of Wilmington pp. 109-110), notes that by the first decade of the twentieth century, Brooklyn had developed into a significant residential and commercial neighborhood, with many of its residents working for the nearby Seaboard Airline Railroad (Tetterton 2005, pp.34-35). Brooklyn was a diverse community in North Carolina's most socially diverse city. Many of its small businesses were run by immigrants: Germans, Scotch-Irish, Jewish, Syrian, Greek, and Chinese, among them. Brooklyn was also a racially mixed neighborhood.

"To Wonderland", Wilmington, N.C. in The Reaves Collection, New Hanover County Public Library, Wilmington, N.C.

A one-paragraph notice in the July 22, 1907, edition of the Wilmington Dispatch announced that it was "comparatively new," and offered films and illustrated songs.

A month later, the Dispatch noted that the Wonderland was one of two movie theaters operating in Brooklyn and that it had been re-opened under new management: R.H. ReVille, "a well known citizen," had purchased the property. The article also noted that he might "change location at some near future date."

Theater management must have been either a short-lived profession for ReVille or a sideline: Robert H. ReVille is listed in the 1907, 1909, and 1911 Wilmington city directories as a grocer, living south of downtown Wilmington on 2nd Street. There is no subsequent mention of the Wonderland in the Reaves Collection material after late August, 1907.