The Community Theatre

The Community Theatre started its long life in 1890 as a 3-story dry-goods store. In 1922 the building was converted to a (silent) movie theatre called The Berbig. It had 330 seats on the first floor, and 150 seats in the balcony. Six short months later Roland Segal of Little Rock bought the theatre and renamed it The Community.

In 1942 Charles F. Bonner was appointed manager (a post he held till 1963). He made a couple of changes to the facility during his tenure. The first was to add neon lights to the front of the building - and he created the aisle wall-lights that are still to be seen in the theatre today. Each fixture uses the face of a different "Petty Girl" often found gracing the pages of Esquire Magazine long ago (so named after the artist famous for his pin-ups, George Petty. A Hollywood film, 1950's The Petty Girl starring Robert Cummings was made about him and his famous creations). Bonner finally closed the Community in 1963 with a showing of The Phantom of the Opera and Jumbo.



The theatre remained closed until 1985 when it was purchased by William Bettwy, a Pine Bluff businessman and ex-pilot. He restored the Community and it reopened to the public in February, 1995. Since then it has been used in a variety of ways - most importantly as both an adjunct and main facility for the Pine Bluff Film Festival.



Currently the theatre has 180 seats on the main floor and the balcony is now used as an office, lighting and projection space. At the back of the seating area on the first floor visitors can still see the "crying room". Decorated with 1930's artwork created by a local artist, the room benefited patrons in a couple of ways - mothers trying to calm an upset child could watch the movie as they soothed their child, and patrons viewing the movie were sheltered from the undoubtedly loud sounds of the distressed infant. Also in the back is the original 35mm projection booth - with projectors still intact - though it is no longer in active use.