Raleigh native Peyton Reed began his love affair with movies at the Cardinal Theatre in North Hills Shopping Center when he was a little boy. The theatre was the spot of his first movie, his informal daycare — on the days his mom dropped him off to run errands, he caught a showing — and later, the spark of a lifelong friendship based on a healthy competition for the most viewings of The Emporer Strikes Back. Twenty-five was the number to beat.
Today, Reed is a film director of such blockbusters as Ant-Man, and he credits his experiences at the Cardinal as its spark. In 1967, the time capsule was buried to commemorate the opening day of the theatre, and even as a child Reed vowed to be there for the reveal.
“I made a pact with myself that I would be there in the distant future to see what was in that time capsule,” Reed said to the packed crowd. “I was hell bent. I had to be here to honor it.”
The capsule rested in the sidewalk for fifty years, outlasting the theatre by 27, until its unearthing earlier today.
Sue Aldridge Perry, resident at The Cardinal at North Hills, remembers the original burial of the capsule. At the time, Aldridge Perry had trouble viewing the capsule in the crowd, she says, so the unveiling was still a surprise. Fifty years later, Aldrige Perry has a front row seat to the excavation.
The copper, cylindrical capsule was heaved onto a table and opened with a chainsaw in front of a crowd that hummed with anticipation, soon tinged with worry as water poured out onto the ground.
Some artifacts were legible, and protected by plastic, while others sat puddling on the floor of the container, set to be extracted later due to concern for preservation.
Items in the container ranged from gift cards to the old Cardinal Movie Theatre, a key to the city, old film reels, and letters outlining what the future might look like in 2017.
Throughout the presentation of items, the crowd’s comradery was evident in shared giggles over memories of seeing Dr. Doolittle to sighs over 75-cent movie tickets.
Bonner Gaylord, Raleigh city council member and managing director of North Hills, was pleased with both the turnout and the ability of the community to connect. In regards to the water damaged artifacts, Gaylord is hopeful.
“Obviously we’d love for the items to be perfectly preserved but we’ll get to work in making sure that they’re preserved as best possible,” Gaylord said. “We’re just pleased to be able to celebrate the community and pay homage to our past while looking to our future.”
Although the theater closed in 1990, the unveiling ceremony offered a glimpse of what Reed might have felt in the moments before his first viewing of The Emperor Strikes Back; waiting with bated breath in a crowd, a community brought together, for the unveiling of an unknown treasure.