The Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte’s NoDa area has seen lots of changes over its 60 year history. It was originally the Astor movie house, part of a bustling community built around the mills north of uptown. After those mills shut down in the 70s, the theater declined along with the neighborhood around it and was showing X-rated films. The building got a renovation in the 90s and opened as a music venue under the Neighborhood Theatre name. Saturday night, it re-opens after two months of renovations.
The first thing you notice when you walk in to the Neighborhood Theatre is how open it is.
“It’s a totally different space; it’s got a totally different vibe,” observes Amanda Liles, after taking her first look at an open house this week. She says she comes to shows at the theater about once a month.
The entry area to the left of the stage that used to have three bars is now an open gallery with a new, 75 foot bar. Liles says that’s a great use of the space. “I can’t wait to see it like filled with people, milling about, having a drink,” she says.
The renovation opened up the main floor of the theater, too. Gone are the VIP boxes along the sides of the floor. The VIP area is moving to the balcony. The stage has stayed the same, but there’s a new PA system, sound board, and lights. Performers seem to think that’s a good thing. Jimmy Brown is the lead singer of the Charlotte band Matrimony. He says, “You want to know that the fans are going to be able to hear you properly, understand what you’re saying, and you want to know that they’re going to be able to have a good time.”
What hasn’t changed is the Neighborhood Theatre’s capacity, at just under 1,000. Alex Shaw, who works for the theater, says that’s a sweet spot for music shows.
“There’s a 500 seat venue in town, a 2,000 seat venue in town, a 1,500 seat venue in town. It allows us to get those acts that are now more attracted to come into Charlotte,” Shaw says.
McCabe McCraw and his company MaxxMusic have taken over booking at the Neighorhood Theater.
“Historically, there’ve been a lot of acts that bypass Charlotte,” he says. “They’ll play in Asheville, Atlanta maybe, Chapel Hill, then keep heading north.”
He hopes the changes will lure many of those bands into stopping in Charlotte.
McCabe McCraw says there are more changes in store. There are plans to add a smaller stage to the bar area over the next few months. He says that will give them flexibility to host smaller shows and events when the main theater is dark.
A Charlotte Indie Folk band called the New Familiars is headlining the reopening show – perhaps a good metaphor. A lot is new, but it’s still the Neighborhood Theatre.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Gregg McCraw of MaxxMusic as "Greg McCabe." WFAE regrets the error.