Documenting the American South


Going to the Show

Simeon Archibald Schloss

Date of Birth
Date of Death
DescriptionThe person who can be credited with introducing movies to Wilmington and arranging most of the film exhibitions held in the city prior to December 1906 was Opera House manager, Simeon Archibald Schloss. As with all opera houses, the one in Wilmington was leased to a manager, who arranged for traveling musical and theatrical companies to play for a few days or a week in Wilmington. In the late 1890s, manager Schloss presented minstrel shows, musical comedies, melodramas, variety (vaudeville) companies, and, beginning in 1897, traveling movie exhibitors. He paid $750 per year to lease Thalian Hall. Schloss parlayed his management of the Opera House into control over a number of key opera houses in the state, and thus was responsible for the introduction of the movies to many white North Carolinians from 1897 to 1907. Schloss was born on October 10, 1865, in Lynchburg, Virginia. His early career in Wilmington was as a merchant and auctioneer. In 1892, S.A. Schloss & Co. at 21-27 Market Street advertised in the Wilmington Messenger as offering china, glassware, and lamps. But Simeon Schloss was also a part-time musician, performing as a part of the Second Regimental Band at the Wilmington Opera House in 1893. After spending some time in Chicago as a band director later that year, Schloss returned to Wilmington and in 1895 leased the Wilmington Opera House. In 1897, he married Mary Bear, the eldest daughter of Solomon Bear, one of Wilmington's most prominent merchants and property developers. In 1898, he also leased the Academy of Music in Raleigh. Schloss went to New York several times each year to book attractions for his theaters. By 1903, he also managed opera houses in Greensboro and Charlotte, and by 1909, he controlled a circuit of some fourteen theaters in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, including houses in Wilmington, Charlotte, Goldsboro, New Bern, Raleigh, Asheville, Winston-Salem, and Danville (Virginia). The management of the Wilmington Academy of Music was taken over by James Howard and Percy Wells in 1916. Although he programmed movies at the Opera House in competition with the Bijou and Theatorium in 1907, Schloss was not particularly interested in movie exhibition as a fulltime business enterprise, however. He aspired to be an opera house magnate: owning, leasing, and/or managing opera houses in the largest cities in North Carolina, and presenting nationally circulating performers, musical groups, and theatrical companies to audiences who would be willing to pay from twenty-five cents to more than one dollar for an evening's entertainment. Traveling film exhibitors were a marginal aspect of his programming plans in the years from 1897 to 1906. Schloss was also a pioneer in what we would now call the billboard industry. He owned a plant that made billboards in Wilmington and served as the secretary of the Middle Atlantic States Bill Posting Union. Schloss died in December 1913.
Associated Venues
Opera House Wilmington, NC manager
Casino Wilmington, NC proprietor (1904*)
Academy of Music 114 N. Third, Wilmington, NC lessee (1913*)
Crystal Palace 21 N. Second Street, Wilmington, NC proprietor
Academy (of Music) Greensboro, NC manager
Academy of Music Raleigh, NC manager
Auditorium 437-441 N. Liberty , Winston-Salem, NC manager
Elks Auditorium 447 Liberty, Winston-Salem, NC manager
Academy of Music 212-4 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC manager
Grand Opera House Asheville, NC manager


  1. Academy (of Music) - Gans-Nelson Pictures
    New York Dramatic Mirror - 12/15/1906
    Tags: manager; traveling exhibitor
  2. Shepard's Moving Pictures - Auditorium - film title
    New York Dramatic Mirror - 3/9/1907
    Tags: film title; manager; traveling exhibitor