Carmike Cinema 7

3404 S. Gateway Blvd.
For almost 25 years, Carmike Cinemas entertained movie-goers in Sioux Falls.
Starting in the 1980s, Carmike Theatres seemed to come from nowhere to virtually dominate the business of movie exhibition. The company, based in Columbus, Georgia, grew from the ambition of Carl L Patrick. Carl was born in Honaker, Virginia in 1918. When he was ten, his father, Deward, died, leaving Carl, his mother, Virginia, and his brother, Harold, to fend for themselves. After graduating from the Dublin, Maryland high school, Patrick worked as a laborer before entering the Army in 1941. He was injured during the war and returned home in 1943. He was discharged with the rank of major In 1945.

That same year, Carl began work as a trainee at Martin Theatres in Columbus, Georgia. The Martin Theater chain had been around since 1912. By 1948, he would become general manager, and by 1969, when Martin Theatres merged with Fuqua Industries, another theatre chain, Carl became president of Fuqua. In 1982, Carl and his sons, Carl Jr. and Mike, purchased the Martin Theatre chain and formed the Carmike Company, named for Patrick’s sons. The movie houses were called Martin Theatres - A Carmike Company until 1986 when they began to be rebranded as Carmike Cinemas. Carmike expanded steadily in the 1980s, mostly in the south, but began to expand into the midwest in the late 1980s.
In June of 1988, Carmike announced plans to build a seven-screen theater in Sioux Falls, at the southwest corner of 41st Street and Interstate 29. At the time, Midco, having purchased the Plitt Theaters in 1986, owned every movie screen in Sioux Falls. Midco ran the Town Six, State Theatre, and West Mall 7, and had been running the Hollywood until 1987, the year it was shuttered.

On December 1, 1988, the Carmike Cinema 7 opened its doors to an invitation-only reception and screening, a day ahead of the grand opening to the public. The $1.75 million theater housed one 325-seat auditorium, two 250-seat rooms, two with 154-seats, and two with 118 seats. Jack Stewart, Carmike’s district manager, promoted the smaller auditoriums as being the best for watching movies. “It’s like a private screening room”, saying “You seem to get more involved in this room than in any of the others”.

The grand opening ad on December 2, 1988.
The entry of Carmike into the local market gave the city 21 screens, and provided some competition for Midco. Carmike’s pricing was kept similar to that of the Midco’s theaters: Both companies charged $4 for adults, and Carmike charged $2.50 for children, while Midco charged $2. Both offered a discount ticket price on Tuesdays, which brought adult admission to $2.50.

On opening night, the Carmike showed Bird, Distant Thunder, Gorillas in the Mist, Punchline, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Sweet Hearts Dance, and Big. All were good films, although they had been released several months earlier. It didn’t matter. The Carmike was the new venue and its seats would be filled, especially by those west of the interstate who found the location to be the most convenient.
Carmike Cinema 7 in 1995.
On September 13, 1995, Carmike and Midco announced the purchase of Midcontinent Theatre Company by Carmike Cinemas. Carmike bought Midco’s 14 complexes, which housed 67 screens in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, and others in North Dakota, and Minnesota. At this point, Carmike boasted 2,285 screens in 31 states, and was the second largest movie exhibitor in the nation. Now it was the only movie company in town, owning the West Mall 7, the Empire 6, as well as the Carmike Cinema 7. Midco had shut down the State Theatre in 1990.
Century Stadium 14 in 2001
Carmike remained the only theater company in town until 1999, when the Century Stadium 14 opened at 26th and Louise. The Century offered all the latest in seating, projection, and concessions. By this time, Carmike had begun to feel some financial hardships, having expanded too fast. On August 8, 2000, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Carmike quietly closed the Empire 6 on January 12, 2001, opting not to renew the lease that was to run out at the end of the month. At this time, the Carmike 7 was available for lease. The West Mall 7 was closed in March of 2001. The Cinema 7 continued its operation until July 14, 2013, when, after 25 years in operation, its doors were closed. The building was torn down in February 2014. The land on which the theater stood was to be redeveloped to accommodate a four-story LaQuinta Inn.

The Carmike Cinema 7 on February 12, 2014.
As a company, Carmike continued its exodus from the scene until what remained was acquired by AMC Theatres in 2016.

In its time here, the Carmike Cinema 7 took movie goers on many a journey. It ushered us into worlds of wonder and adventures into distant realms not found on earth. Through flickering lights on a silver screen and speakers booming with manufactured sounds, we were transported to another world for $4 a seat.