History of the Sottile Theatre

Opened on August 20, 1927 as a showcase for vaudeville, touring shows, and movies, the Gloria Theater was built by Albert Sottile and operated by his Pastime Amusement Company for nearly fifty years. Designed as a smaller version of the great movie palaces of the era, it seated nearly 2,000 and was lauded for the grandeur of its architecture and design. The theater continually provided entertainment for Charleston residents until its closing in 1975, and is the only one of Albert Sottile’s many beautiful movie houses that is still operating as a performing arts space today.

black and white photos of The Gloria

The College of Charleston acquired the Gloria from the Sottile family in 1976 and began renovations and refurbishments on the theater a decade later.  During the years of disuse, the theater fell into disrepair. The initial renovations included urgently needed repairs to the building; preservation of many of the theater’s original details including the illuminated blue dome with its twinkling stars, the addition of heating and air conditioning, an expanded stage, and a rear addition to house dressing rooms, a green room, and much needed storage space.  When the theater’s doors opened again in February 1990, it was as the newly named Sottile Theatre - in honor of Albert. 

The most recent renovation in 2019 focused on modernizing and updating the stage house, replacing the Theatre's original 1920's hemp rigging system with a modern counterweight system, expanding the wing space and stage access, and the addition of an automated orchestra pit lift.

Additionally, the Theatre's decorative murals, which were discovered behind acoustic tiles in 2011, have been restored and returned to their original beauty. Painted on canvas by Italian artists in the 1920's, one scene depicts a centaur and nymphs before a forested and mountainous background. The other shows classical figures celebrating music and drama before a blue-green sea.

The Sottile Theatre hosts a wide variety of events in the performing arts, serving as the site of many College of Charleston events and programs, as well as many community-oriented and privately sponsored events.