The historic Clemson Theater at 364 College Avenue in downtown Clemson, South Carolina has remained an important landmark of the college town for years. Generations of both students and locals look to the brightly painted “Clemson” sign standing above the doors with much familiarity. However, most people are less familiar with the building’s past.
Ads for the Clemson Theater began appearing in the university newspaper, The Tiger, as early as 1938. The theater provided a wide variety of shows and movies over the years for the community, specifically the college community. The theater would often donate tickets as prizes for university events such as dances, door decorating competitions, and Senior Day. In early 1949, when downtown businesses in Clemson found themselves lacking customers due to poor advertising, the Clemson Theater decided to create a local game show, Pop Quiz, in which residents and students could answer trivia questions for a chance to win prizes from local stores every Saturday. If the contestants did not answer their question correctly, they received tickets to the theater as a consolation prize. In addition to these examples of involvement, Blue Key, a national honorary service fraternity, sponsored a couple of movies in 1956, using the theater as a way to serve their fellow students. Some of the less nostalgic memories of the theater have to do with the reoccurring issue of rowdy moviegoers distracting others from the show. But, the clear disapproval of those students and professors whose movies were interrupted displays how much the community cared for the theater and the good times spent there.
As the Clemson Theater began to age, the company that owned the theater, Star Theaters, Inc., of Greenville, opened a new movie house just down the street called Astro III in January 1971. This new unconventional theater had a “space-age” theme and new three-dimensional effects. The Clemson Theater continued to show movies for some time after the opening of the new Astro III. The two theaters were described in a 1974 The Tiger article as offering “all types of movies ranging from Walt Disney to skin flicks.” In the summer of 1984, The Tiger Sports Shop and one other store moved into the old Clemson Theater after the Astro III had become downtown Clemson’s main theater. The Tiger Sports Shop remains in the old theater building today and continues to serve the Clemson community as one of the well-known gameday apparel stores in the area.