Canova Theater, Conover, NC
First opened May 28, 1941
Night Photography by, Mr.Elmer McRee (1951)  

Hub Theater, Hickory, NC
ca. 1912-13

This web site, originally conceived by Don Barker, of Conover, NC, represented his sum total knowledge of the theater he attended as a child. From this modest beginning, Don's curiosity was piqued. He pondered how many other movie houses and theaters existed in the Catawba Valley. From the simple history of the Canova Theater in Conover, Don began to uncover the fascinating history of cinematic establishments that made us both laugh and cry. Horror and adventure were ours for one thin dime.

The movie history of the Catawba Valley began in 1889 with the building of the Elliott Opera House in Hickory. Eventually, Don's research uncovered pioneer theater owners of Colonial Theaters, and Kenneth Benfield Theaters, Inc. and others. This undertaking has involved several years of researching and interviews with those who proudly promoted and presented film entertainment to Western North Carolina movie-goers.

This movie theater story begins in the town of Valdese, with the forming of the Colonial Theaters Group and takes in the Catawba County entertainment venues of Maiden, Newton, Conover and Hickory. Long-closed theaters were also discovered in the Burke County towns of Hildebran, Valdese, Drexel and Morganton. Crossing the Catawba River into Caldwell and Alexander Counties, a rich history of the long-forgotten theaters was discovered and documented. Within a radius of thirty miles, over eighty named movie houses have been documented. Fully illustrated , BIG TIME FOR A DIME, celebrates our cinematic memories, together with those who brought "Hoot" Gibson, John Wayne and Zorro to the Catawba Valley silver screens.


 is written by Don Barker of Conover.

Slated for publication in 2007, photos and any recollections and memorabilia are still being solicited for last-minute publication. Discovery of remarkable information, together with newly discovered photos and illustrations have delayed the publication of this comprehensive history of the silver screen.

Any and all photographs and/or two-dimensional media sent will be scanned
and return via registered USPS. Full credit to contributors will be made.

304 3rd St S.E.
Conover, NC 28613

To reserve your copy of BIG TIME FOR A DIME, please email Don

Please see the article by Kim Gilliland on REEL LIFE

And while we're at it,
Whatever Happened to those Old Westerns and Their Stars?

More about the Canova: response from a reader:

"....Your photo of the Canova Theater dates from 1951, which is the time "Air Cadet" was released.  The three cars in front of theater are (right to left): 1950 Oldsmobile 2 door, light Blue, belonging to Jerome Bolick.  1946 Hudson 4 door, Tan and Brown (I think) belonging to Lee Moritz.   At left, Is a 1930 Model "A" 4 door, in Black, belonging to Yours Truly!  I worked at the Canova, starting in 1946 or '47, putting up the Marquee letters, in rain or shine.  When the movie changed, 
I had to carry a 10 foot wooden ladder from the boiler room, at rear of building, to the marquee...    Whenever rain was falling, this was not very pleasant, what with the heavy buzzing made by water splashing on the Neon lights..Too close to electricity !  BUT !!  I had free admission !!   Hot stuff at that time...  Saw more movies than anyone around. In 1943, admission for kids under12 was  9 cents... We all 
griped at .12 cents...when we got older...  .12 cents...Geez !!    Seems like forever ago.....   
                                       Best regards,     Walt Griggs" 

[Ed: Thanks very much, Walt]


CONOVER, April 10, 1942.--The fact that the Canova Theatre in Conover has been chosen fourth among several hundred picture houses throughout the United States and Canada, has just been announced by Jay Emanuel Publications, Inc., of Philadelphia.

For the first time in the thirty years of the motion picture industry, annual awards for design and construction excellence in theatres are being announced in the 1942 Edition of the Theatre Catalogue.  A committee composed of prominent theatre circuit executives, specializing theatre architects, and air-conditioning, sight and sound engineers chose the "perfect 36" from several hundred theatres constructed in the United States and Canada, and each is being awarded a merit scroll.

The most outstanding in each of three size classes will also be awarded a bronze plaque which designates it as the "Best" of the year.  Recipients of these "Best" plaques are; the 575 seat College Theatre, Brookings, S. D., owned by Frank J. McCarthy; the 960 seat Village Theatre, Houston, Texas, owned by Interstate Theatres, Inc., and the 1604 seat Beach Theatre, Miami Beach, Fla., owned by the Paramount Theatre interests.  The fourth ranking theatre, the Canova, at Conover, is owned by the Colonial Theatres, Inc., of Valdese, which is managed by George D. Carpenter.  It has a seating capacity of 500 and was designed by R. L. Clemmer, Hickory architect.

The handsome building on Main street was erected last Spring by Herman Sipe and Company, local contractors, and is owned by V. O. Sipe.  Its opening date on May 28, 1941 was a gala event in the town and surrounding community.  Throughout the year the management has arranged a splendid showing of the latest pictures, special features and news reels.  An anniversary week is being arranged for observance next month, Hall Houpe, the local manager, said today.

Through a strange coincidence "Canova" was chosen for Conover's new theatre when the committee on names met in Valdese last year, and, from a long list, selected the name which was originally given to the little village when it was founded nearly seventy years ago.

From old records it was that a lady teaching school in the little log school house where the town's first citizens learned to "read, write, and cipher," chose the beautiful name "Canova" in honor of an Italian sculptor.  It was later changed to Conover, however.

[Hickory Daily Record, April 10, 1942]


All photos courtesy of Don Barker

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