It is a truth universally acknowledged that college students in possession of little money must be in want of caffeine, ice cream and a good party. One business within walking distance of Maryville College offers all three. Its name is the Capitol Theatre.
You know the one, with the glittering marquee and rolling red carpet. Chances are you’ve seen it as you were driving down Broadway. Maybe the bench out front that is painted to look like a hot fudge sundae has caught your eye. Either way, you won’t regret stopping by to experience the theatre up close.
The coffee shop is perhaps the most appealing feature to students, selling espresso drinks and ice cream dishes named for famous movie lines. Customers are encouraged to use the photo booth, equipped with an expansive collection of props. They may take on the personas of favorite movie characters by donning recognizable hats or posing with Stormtrooper figurines.
The Capitol has been around far longer than the coffee shop, though. Its history dates back to 1934. It was originally a movie theatre with just under 1,000 seats, and late into the ‘40s, banners hung from the building to announce film premieres. People gathered to experience early showings of classics such as Gone with the Wind. Since the ‘70s, the building has changed hands several times and housed various other businesses, including a record shop and a wedding dress store.
Current owner Heath Claiborne purchased the building in the early 2000s and initially used it as an art gallery. He painted in the theatre space and sold his works in the lobby. Eventually, he developed a plan for an art project of a grander scale. He decided to restore the theatre’s original Hollywood glamour atmosphere. In 2008, the Capitol Theatre reopened as the event venue it is today.
The main space within the Capitol Theatre contains a performance stage, a dance floor and silver art deco tables that seat roughly 200 people. The red and black color scheme makes all who enter feel as though they’ve stepped into an old film. A fiber optic curtain and sparkling chandelier add ambiance to the stage area, and lighting sets the mood further.
This room can be rented out for weddings, corporate events, birthday parties, awards banquets and more. The Capitol is an all-inclusive venue, designed to give customers everything they need so they don’t have to put as much work into planning. They offer a number of packages, some including DJ and catering services.
When there are no events happening, the theatre space is open to the public. Customers of the coffee shop are free to explore the stage and eat at the tables. They can stroll up and down the aisles or occupy the dance floor. This is not only allowed, but it is encouraged.
“I’ve seen people just lying on the stage, and that’s fine. It’s awesome as long as there’s not an event going on,” said Haley Schweitzer, the Capitol’s event coordinator. “We want it to be a scene.”
Schweitzer and Claiborne have had many conversations about reaching out to Maryville College students. They would like to see more students enjoying the space, hanging out in the coffee shop and possibly renting out the theatre for events like dances and movie nights. While they are aware that most student organizations can’t afford expensive venues, they are willing to be flexible.
“We do a lot of different types of events that maybe student organizations could host, and we always want to work with your budget,” said Schweitzer.“We’re open to helping schools, and we want to do work with you guys. And we’re super close [to MC].”
Whether sitting down to enjoy a “May the Force Be With You” espresso or booking the venue for an event, students are encouraged to stop by the Capitol Theatre. It is a stone’s throw from campus, and it offers a unique atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else in Maryville.