University Theater opened in 1938 on West Main Street, becoming Charlottesville's fourth movie house. The building was located near where the Graduate Hotel stands today and was demolished in the early 1990's, with the site later successively serving as the location of the regional record store chain Plan 9 Music, a tanning salon, and a convenience store. The theater was managed by the firm Dominion Theaters. The building was designed by architect Louis A. Brown Jr. and constructed by the Barnes Lumber Company. Due to its proximity to the University of Virginia, the theater experimented with showing foreign and artistic films.
The theater was listed as being under construction in the April 9, 1938 issue of The Film Daily. According to the paper, the building cost around $60,000 in total, contained 580 seats, and was designed by Pruitt & Brown, an architecture firm based in New York City but with branch offices in Virginia and Oklahoma.
In 1961, Virginius Thornton led a protest at the theater in response to the theater's manager selling tickets to the white students in Thornton's party whilst denying entry to Thornton and two other Black students (the manager, named John W. Kase, claimed that because the theater did not possess a balcony or other facilities for segregation, allowing any Black viewers inside would be breaking the law).
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- Web. Work on Theater Now Complete, Staff Reports, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, August 9, 1938, retrieved August 9, 2016 from University of Virginia Library.