Clayton to celebrate 70 years of movie magic

In 1949, Harry S. Truman was president, Joe DiMaggio was playing for the New York Yankees and Dagsboro’s Clayton Theatre opened its doors for the first time.

The single-screen theater was built by Dagsboro natives and brothers-in-law Pete Hancock and “Skeet” Campbell.

Now, 70 years later, the theater will be celebrating its platinum anniversary with a double-feature.

“The theater opened on Feb. 2, 1949, and that’s Groundhog Day,” said Clayton Theatre owner Joanne Howe. “So, we decided it would be fun to run the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ but I also wanted to run the classic that opened the theatre 70 years ago — ‘One Touch of Venus.’

“I was hoping we’d appeal to a younger crowd and an older crowd, and maybe they’d like to come out to see both films.”

“One Touch of Venus,” starring Ava Gardner and Robert Walker, will show at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, while “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, will show at 12:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Single tickets cost $7 each, or people can enjoy a double-feature for $10. The theater’s regular feature this week, “A Dog’s Way Home,” will show later that evening, at 7 p.m.

“We’re going to start selling tickets about a half an hour before the first show. There’s not going to be a whole lot of time between the shows, but we do plan on doing something with the audience that’s there,” said Howe.

“We’re having special T-shirts being made to commemorate our 70th anniversary. We’re going to have some trivia games and some other fun things going on throughout the course of the day, with each show that we have. And, we will have hotdogs available that day for anyone who wants to come for lunch.”

This will be the first time the Clayton has shown a double-feature, and Howe said the response has been positive.

“We’re going to give it a try and see how it all comes out. I’ve gotten some feedback on our Facebook page and website. People seem to be excited about it. Of course, it’s the classics crowd, so they love the old films.

“I don’t know if we’ll have a huge crowd, but I’m hoping people will show up for one, or maybe both films, and it’ll be a fun day for us.”

Along with first-run movies, in the winter months, the theater shows classic films on Monday nights — an offering started six years ago to raise funds to help the theater purchase a digital projector.

“This year, we talked about not doing the classics anymore on Monday nights, but we had such an outpouring of people who really wanted to continue to see them that we decided to go ahead and do it,” said Howe.

“We started it six years ago, and people really came out Monday nights and supported us. Now, six years later, after we’ve raised the money, people still want us to do it. I have fun doing it, too, and we have a steady crowd of people who come Monday nights.”

Howe said she hopes movie lovers and history lovers alike will attend one or both screenings, and celebrate 70 years of Clayton magic in Sussex County.

“The community has always come out and supported the theater. We can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done to help our theater keep going.”

For more information about the Clayton Theatre or to pre-purchase tickets, visit The Clayton Theatre is located at 33246 Main Street in Dagsboro.


By Maria Counts

Staff Reporter