The 3-story building was built in 1890. It opened as Big Red Store specializing in mercantile and dry goods items. Cresses eventually replaced the Big Red Store becoming a furniture manufacturing company. On May 19, 1922, the building opened its doors as a theater/store front and was renamed in a public contest, the Berbig Theater. The theater originally had 330 seats on the main floor and 150 seats in the balcony.
Six months after opening its doors, the Berbig Theater was purchased by Roland Siegel of Little Rock and was remained the Community Theater. It appears that Siegel managed the theater until sometime in 1942 when Charles F. Bonner was appointed manager.
Bonner, who managed the Community Theater from 1942-1963 made two significant changes to the building. He added the neon signs, which are still in use today, to the front of the building. Bonner also created the aisle wall lights found in the theater today. Each wall light uses the face of a different “pretty girl” from Esquire magazine. Bonnie closed the Community Theater in 1963.
The theater remained closed in 1985, when William Bettwy, a Pine Bluff businessman, purchased it. Bettwy restored the Community Theater and reopened it to the public in February of 1995. Since then it has been used in a variety of community activities including “Wednesday Off Main”, tours by the Chamber of Commerce and Delta Queen Riverboat Tours, and public and private school (K-12) tours. It is also used as a companion site for the annual Pine Bluff Film Festival and for several special thematic film festivals held throughout the year.
Currently, the theater has 180 seats on the main floor with a dance floor/handicap seating area in the front of the theater. At the back of the seating area of the first floor, visitors can see the “cry room”. Decorated with 1930’s artwork done by a local artist, the room benefited patrons in several ways. Mothers trying to calm an upset child could watch the show as the soothed their children, while other patrons, viewing the movie, were spared having to listen to the crying child.
The second floor has been converted into offices for the Old Town Theatre Centre. The third floor is used as the projection area. The original projection booth with its 35mm projector is intact; however, most films are shown with a 16mm projector standing in the former balcony on the third floor.