Carib Theatre, Clearwater, Fl ©Benita VanWinkle 1-1982

Please Remain Standing is a passionate plea to save vintage movie theaters across the United States built before the affront of multiplex theaters in the mid-1960’s. The name of this expansive portfolio is a tribute to the Carib’s manager who played the national anthem before every movie, asking patrons to stand. He would turn on the house lights to embarrass those who did not stand.

This project originated with a college photography assignment to “paint with light in the dark”. I chose to light the interior of the Carib Theatre, in Clearwater, Florida, having worked at the bank next door as a teen and experiencing many pivotal moments of my youth at the theater. The beloved theater, with its Egyptian themed history of cinema, and whose interior walls towered several stories high, was demolished two years after I made my photograph to make a downtown parking lot. Realizing how important a common gathering space of a theater is for providing recreation, non-religious assembly, education, and community building, it became my mission to document as many of them as feasible. I have made a significant effort to photograph in small towns because the theaters are so valued by the residents. Along with the images, I have also recorded personal stories of attending these touchstones when possible.

People often ask me which is my favorite theater I have photographed.  There isn’t one.  On any given day, the memory of a bright marquee or a beautiful stage might come to my mind and make me smile, but ten minutes later it will be a fun powder room or an adopted mascot in a different theater that elicits the same reaction from me.  They all have their charms, their quirks, their ghosts, their vibe.  Just like the communities they originate in, each place is unique, and it is important to let the personality of the place show me the story that needs to be told.  Since I travel mostly during the summer, I don’t necessarily have time to wait around for the perfect weather or the perfect time of day!  For instance, I arrived at 8:30 in the morning after a two-hour drive to photograph the Lund Theatre in Viborg, South Dakota.  No movie theater is going to be open at that hour! BUT IT WAS. It just so happened that they were putting on a special showing for the school children in the community since school was about to be out for the summer.  The child in the photograph belonged to a volunteer, and she was curious about who I was since there are only about 400 people in her town! It was a gift to be paying attention and to see her face show up framed by the art deco glass door opening.

While I now have over 900 theaters in all 50 states and several cities overseas, this project will never be finished for me. Beloved traditional movie theaters tend to create something most of us wish there was a bit more of: tolerance, cooperation, celebration of diversity, and most of all, community.


Benita VanWinkle is an Associate Professor of Art at High Point University in High Point, NC and has also taught photography in FL, GA, and MT.  For over forty years, her most ambitious portfolio, “Please Remain Standing” encompasses documenting over 900 movie theaters built before 1965 in all 50 states and overseas.

Benita worked as a professional photojournalist for several years before obtaining her MFA in photography at Southern Illinois University, concentrating on architectural documentary work so she could combine her passions: teaching and photography. Other photography portfolios include “Old Glory”, depictions of the American flag throughout her travels and “The View from Here”, observations of everyday life. Her website also showcases her love of bookbinding and stitchery. Publishing a book of the “Please Remain Standing” work is currently in progress.  And while a milestone has been reached, there will always be one more theater to experience.

Contact Information:

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Pine Theatre, Pineville, OR ©Benita VanWinkle 6-2023