Originally created 03/30/97

Family cinema plays on

GAFFNEY, S.C. - Clyde and Mary Hudson have a simple philosophy about business at the Capri Theatre - their home for 30 years.

Customers become friends who can enjoy a movie on the big screen and not be distracted by the buzz of a clothes dryer that calls them away from the television and VCR.

The Capri is one of the few single-screen movie houses that has survived on main streets in small towns. Three generations have taken their children to movies at the Capri.

The Hudsons raised their sons, Chad, now 25, and Beau, now 20, there. They also babysat many children whose parents watched a new release uninterrupted.

The Hudsons say that as independent business people, they can give their customers more attention.

Mrs. Hudson said occasional out-of-town visitors often send her notes of appreciation for the hospitality they received.

The Capri Theatre opened in 1936 as the Cherokee. It was located next door to the Hamrick Theatre, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Many Gaffney residents have fond memories of the Hamrick Theatre with its balcony and Saturday matinees. It was razed about 30 years ago to make way for downtown development.

In the early 1970s, the Cherokee got a new look and a new name. The Capri has only closed once.

That was for 30 days of renovation in 1970, after Hudson had been sent from Albermarle, N.C., by Capri owners Stewart-Everette of Charlotte to be the theater's manager.

The Hudsons, who had just gotten married, spent their honeymoon cleaning each night after renovation crews left for the day.

They carried out trash and tore out old seats in the auditorium. Workers who renovated the building didn't recognize the newlywed managers on opening night.

They had exchanged their work clothes for their best Sunday dress, and the 243-seat auditorium was sold out for the showing of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, starring James Bond.

About 12 years later, the Hudsons bought the Capri. They are its owners, managers and janitors.

Mr. Hudson makes the popcorn.

The movie management business is tedious, he said.

The Hudsons said they do not gouge their customers with high prices. They charge the minimum required by the movie owners. Their profit comes from concessions.

"But not at the expense of denying a family with several children a drink and popcorn," Mrs. Hudson said. "We're reasonable."

Mr. Hudson, 53, has worked with movie theaters since he was young.

"I wish I had a penny for every ton of popcorn he has popped," Mrs. Hudson said. "I can't pop it like him. The boys can't pop it like him."

The stage still has its original foot lights, and some of the original tile flooring was retained in the present building.

The Hudsons have tried all kinds of advertisements to draw crowds. They've built replicas of a moonshine still in the lobby. Hudson has ridden a donkey through town and has escorted a two-headed monster on a leash through the streets.

Although they're happy with the business and don't plan to expand, the Hudsons admit they've always wanted to have a drive-in theater.


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