The opening of Carousel Cinemas at Alamance Crossing is an ongoing sequel in the story of the Janus/Carousel Properties. The company has been a vital advocate in the Piedmont area for indy filmmakers and art-house films since 1968—when it first opened as the Janus Theater.
Near the corner of Northwood Street and Battleground Avenue, the Janus opened December 1968 in Greensboro with ”Yellow Submarine” on one screen and ”Elvira Madigan” on the other. It made history as only the fourth movie house in the country with more than one screen, and the only two-screen theater between Washington and Atlanta.
Janus owner and founder Hammond Bennett was well known for his efforts to find films, and attended festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Cannes, France. He brought back the kind of flicks that made the Janus infamous, where could bring your local art snob, or your grandmother to see a film, according to local reports.
Married couples, high school kids and the area’s college students could spread out, slouch and lounge in the theater’s sofas and chairs. The theater’s vibe and sought-after flicks made memories that still resonate with past ticket-holders—as well as inspired a few film careers.
“‘Ah, Janus Films,’ I whispered to my chum Steve Jenkins, thinking of the local Janus Theater in Greensboro, NC. ‘They got me through college.’ Steve boasted that Janus Films helped him through Junior High. Well la-di-da,” wrote one film blogger, and Janus alumnus.
Also among the audience back then was “Junebug” director Phil Morrison. At the Janus, Morrison said he was first bitten by the film bug by watching indy flicks with family and friends. When he got his first chance at directing, Morrison said he didn’t want to film in New York, he wanted to come back to North Carolina, closer to where it all started.
But by the time “Junebug” opened September 15, 2005 the old Janus theater had long been closed and its theater, demolished.
The Janus officially closed June 22, 2000. Luxury cinemas and stadium seating made indy film art houses like the Janus go the way of the drive-in movie theater. Even after expanding from 2 to 8 screens, the Janus finally closed as its dwindling audiences sought out the newer, bigger movie theater experience.
The Janus theater building was later demolished to make way for luxury condos and high end retails spaces (which never went up). 440 theater seats from the Janus went to the Barn Dance, a family-friendly country music theater in Julian, NC.
Bennett, the Janus theater owner, later formed Carousel/Janus Properties and opened a new 15-screen theater before Thanksgiving in 1999. In March 2001 a group of Greensboro film lovers created Greensboro Cinema, an advocate group for art films, and negotiated with Carousel/Janus Property owners to continue its art and indy film tradition.
Morrison, Junebug’s director, eventually showed his film at the reinvented Janus theater on Battleground Avenue in 2005.
And now, the Janus keeps its history alive at both The Carousel Grande in Greensboro, and now, the new Carousel Cinemas at Alamance Crossing, by continuing to show independent, and locally produced films.
The old Janus theater seats and couches may be gone, but the creative spirit and community support is still here.
To be continued …