The Howell Theater

Come Be A Part of History

One of the oldest continuously operated Movie theaters in the U.S.

In April 2017, The Howell Theatre was purchased by its current owners, Bill & Leanne Johnson of Meadow. We are committed to offering quality entertainment, at a price point that any family can afford. During the Covid19 pandemic of 2020, we spent the time doing much needed renovations on the lobby, bathrooms, kitchenette, and balcony theatres.

1935

The Howell Theatre opens
to much fanfare

On Monday, February 4, 1935 the Howell Theater opens with a special ceremony between showings of The Night Is Young, starring Ramon Navarro and Evelyn Laye.

1949

hosted the world premiere of The Great Sinner

In August 1949, the Howell Theatre hosted the world premiere of The Great Sinner, starring Smithfield native Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck.

1960

Fire Engulfs the Theater and threatens downtown

At approximately 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 24, 1960, the Howell Theatre was gutted by a fire.  The blaze was contained thanks in part to the building’s “good fire proof walls,”

1974

Major Renovations are undertaken

Renovations included the installation of new carpet and draperies downstairs and 300 new “lounger rocking chairs” and reduction of approximately 180 seats downstairs to improve comfort.

1980

Founder H.P. Howell Passes Away

H.P. Howell passes away and ownership of the theater passes to Rudy Howell and his sister Carolyn Howell Brink.

1986 - 1990

A Series of Renovations and updates are completed

Rudy Howell, now the sole owner, completes the second major renovation. The lobby was enlarged  to make more room for concessions, and Dolby Stereo is installed.

1999

The Howell Theater is Sold

In April of 1999, when he turned 80, Rudy Howell sold Johnston County’s only theatre at the time to Mickey Buffaloe.  The Theater had been in the Howell Family for nearly 65 years.

2004

The Howell Theater Begins Showing Second Run Movies

Under Buffaloe’s ownership, the Howell Theatre faced competition for the first time in many years. Buffaloe chose to change the theatre to second-run with more affordable ticket prices, making it the best entertainment value in Smithfield.

2009

The Howell Theatre Is sold and updated

Theater is sold to Chuck and Amy Kirkman.  The theatre’s sound system and seating were updated again, and film reels were abandoned with the installation of new digital projectors.

2017 - Present

The Howell Theater Sold TO Current Owners

The Howell Theatre was purchased by its current owners, Bill & Leanne Johnson. The Johnson’s are committed to offering quality entertainment, at a price point that any family can afford.

Memories

A part of Smithfield's history since 1935

Theater Founder

Henry Paul Howell

Monday February 4, 1935

Opening Night

Summer of 2021

We are open and showing your favorite movies