The Cameo Theater, one of the 15 oldest theaters in Virginia, is a landmark icon of the Bristol, VA/TN community (since it began entertaining the region on March 30, 1925). At the time of its opening, The Cameo was the premier and most state of the art facility in the region. The Cameo provided family entertainment such as films, plays and live music until the 1970’s, when modern malls and cineplexes brought a swift and sad end to The Cameo (and many vintage theaters across the country).
Three theaters were eventually torn down in the city and many felt The Cameo should experience the same fate. For over 40 years, The Cameo spent most of its time neglected. The building sat with a crumbling façade, “For Sale” sign in the window and no real plan from anyone on how this gem of downtown could be brought back to the people of the region…until now.
ABOUT THE OWNER, BRENT BUCHANAN
The Cameo found its hero in local Bristolian and music lover – Brent Buchanan. A lifelong resident of Bristol, Brent had never been inside the theater until the day a realtor agreed to meet him for a tour. Brent saw past the crumbling, yet surviving, ceilings and chipped paint. “It has a soul! I fell in love as soon as I walked through the doors. I began to see a future here.” Thus began a three-year process to purchase the building. There were many ups and downs along the way; however, Brent’s drive and determination to save the theater never wavered. On October 12, 2017, Brent proudly called himself the owner of The Cameo. A small first step, due to the extensive renovation, Brent’s passion to save and protect the theater has brought it to the cusp of recapturing its former greatness.
In an age of stadiums, lights and smoke, The Cameo will be a place to experience music in its purest form – the way artists intended. For artists, there is a chance to re-live those first years of their career. For fans, it gives them the opportunity to experience something magical. For everyone, it provides a place to connect with music and each other. Brent will take The Cameo to heights-unseen with entertainment in Bristol (and the region).
BRISTOL, VA: “The Birthplace of Country Music”
In 1856, via the Norfolk and Western line, the first passenger train arrived in Bristol. By 1858, the Southern Railway line linked Bristol to surrounding cities and resulted in the Train Station being built in 1903. The Twin City began experiencing rapid expansion spurred by the railroad and countless manufacturing facilities. With such growth The Cameo was built and resulted in the addition of five more theaters for downtown Bristol by the 1940’s. Bristol is no stranger to the music industry due to early country music recordings and influences by record producer Ralph Peer in 1927. Peer, of Victor Records, began recording local musicians in Bristol in an attempt to capture the sound of traditional folk music. A.P. Carter and his family aka “The Carter Family” were a result of Peer’s efforts as well as the first recordings by Jimmie Rodgers. In 1998, United States Congress declared Bristol VA/TN “The Birthplace of Country Music.”