The Brook Theatre was built by Alexander and Elida Morecraft and opened in 1927. A contest to name the theater was held in July of the opening year. “Bijou”, “Royal” and “Mecca” were some of the 300 suggestions, but “The Brook” was selected.The contest winner received a $25 prize.
The Brook was constructed with a large stage, 1,312 seats, and featured a 2/4 Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ. This original organ, Opus 1519, was a style B shipped from the factory on November 26, 1926. Style B instruments included a 16’ flute, 8’ salicional, 8’ vox humana, and 8’ trumpet. Tuned percussions were xylophone, glock, and chimes. Traps were snare, bass and kettle drums, and cymbal. The organ was installed in a single chamber at house right at a cost of $18,000. It was removed circa 1985-1987 and went to a radio station in Mississippi.The interior of the Brook was elegant with its special Louis XIV décor, acoustic dome, and ornate chandeliers. The marquee was brilliantly lit by 1,000 electric bulbs.
Built as a combination vaudeville theater and movie palace, the Brook Theater was opened in 1927 the same year the first talking picture The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson hit the silver screen. Even though The Brook Theater was opened at the tail end of an era—the arrival of talking pictures signaled the beginning of the end for vaudeville—it was home to a wide variety of acts and flourished as a regional hub of cultural activity. Headliners, including Tony Bennett and Jackie Gleason entertained packed houses, which at the time, was an 850 seat theater. Vaudeville acts and circus shows were the original entertainment. In 1927, a year after opening, movies were added under the 20th Century Fox, and later the Skouras, movie chains. In 1962 building renovations took place, and new sound projection equipment was installed.
After 51 years of control by the Morecraft family, the theatre was finally closed in 1977 when daughter Gladys retired. After that, the building was sold and rented to various operators. In September of 1986 Phil Neri purchased the theatre. He renovated and enlarged the stage area, and produced only stage shows featuring name performers. It was during this period that the original Wurlitzer organ was removed. In 1994 movies returned as the Roberts chain took over operation of the theatre.
In 1999 when the venue was flooded by Hurricane Floyd, the Brook Theatre was purchased by a non-profit organization and turned into the Brook Arts Center. Over three million dollars of federal, state and county funding have been provided to purchase and rehabilitate the flood damaged theatre with new electric service, plumbing, heating and air conditioning. New comfortable seating was installed and the theatre reopened seven years after the flood in the fall of 2006. Since that time the Brook Arts Center has AGAIN been refurbished and reopened following a second flood in 2007.
Today, the Brook Arts Center is one of only eight surviving vaudeville houses and offers plays, concerts, silent movies, educational and fundraising events, and serves as an arts incubator.While most theaters built in that era have been demolished or converted to movie multiplexes, the Brook Arts Center remains unchanged and stands as a 1920s-era Landmark