The Bonnie Kate: An Historic Icon of downtown Elizabethton
The Bonnie Kate Theater has always been an important part of the Elizabethton/Carter County community. Located in downtown Elizabethton, the Bonnie Kate Movie Theater has opened its doors to many patrons eager to see the latest family flick. As is true with many movie theaters when the movie industry converted to digital equipment the Bonnie Kate was forced to close its doors. In 2016 the building was purchased through the fundraising efforts of the Elizabethton/Carter County Foundation and is under the control of the City of Elizabethton. A board was appointed to oversee building restoration and currently is in charge of theatrical performances and musical and community events.
During the years 1926 through 1929 Elizabethton experienced a boom time when the Bemberg and Glanzstoff Rayon factories began operations there and several theaters were the result of that boom. The Bonnie Kate was built in the Classical Revival style of architecture and opened in the spring of 1926. It was owned by Mrs. Olivia “Ollie” Hogue Brown, a coal baroness from Bluefield, West Virginia.
The theater opened to a full house of 500 enjoying the showing of a silent film. During the 1930’s and 40’s, a live local music show called “Barrel of Fun” was broadcast by two radio stations to a listening audience reported to be in the millions in the southeastern United States.The theater was later converted to a split screen and rocking chair seating was installed in 1969.
The Bonnie Kate Theater was named after Katherine Sherrill Sevier, a heroine of Carter County in the 1700’s and the wife of the first Governor of Tennessee. Her reputation as a fine woman inspired the nickname, Bonnie Kate.
A fully restored Bonnie Kate will continue to be the center for the arts in the Carter County/Elizabethton community, offering opportunities for classic movies, classes and workshops and community gatherings but in a much nicer looking place.
Plans include restoring the stage area, adding period-appropriate lighting and decor., painting, fixing electric work, and adding stage lights, matching chairs. A sprinkler system. and roof improvements will be a part of the reivtalization plan as well. In the future, a building addition which extends into the back lot will allow for adding a thrust stage, exposing the original decorations on the back wall and make room for a backstage and dressing rooms.
Bonnie Kate Theater Restoration Project
The Elizabethton/Carter County Foundation, The Bonnie Kate Theater Board of Directors and the City of Elizabethton invite businesses, organizations and individuals to become part of this important project, one that will leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
To make a contribution, checks or other gifts should be made payable to:
Elizabethton / Carter County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 695, Elizabethton, TN 37644
Gifts by credit card can be made by clicking the button below, after the site loads select Carter County from the map or county listing.
Thank you for your support!