Carefree Theater to be rebuilt

Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 18:31:01-05

It was the premier entertainment center in the area. Now plans are in motion to rebuild the old Carefree Theater on South Dixie Highway that dates back to the thirties.

The Carefree Theater was once West Palm’s go-to social spot.“The phone would ring and it would be President Kennedy on the other end of the phone or his staff wanting to know what was being shown that afternoon,” remembered Robert Shalhoub, who grew up at the theater with his cousins.

“Everyday after school we would all go to the Carefree and we'd have to do our chores,” said Shalhoub.

His great uncle Elias Chalhub bought the Carefree Theater in 1939. He transformed a laundromat into the playhouse of the Palm Beaches.

“It had a bowling alley, it had the billiards, it had ping pong,” said Shalhoub. And of course a movie theater that played countless American classics for just 50 cents. There was also an ice-skating rink on the roof.

“Absolutely priceless,” said Shalhoub. “What better place can you grow up in the fifties and the sixties but the Carefree?”

In the mid eighties, Shalhoub’s uncle sold the Carefree. For more than twenty years, it was a music hall and comedy club. The property sat vacant for a while until it was sold again. The theater was demolished in September.

“I thought why come up with a different name, why not re-invent a new Carefree,” said Charles Cohen, the owner and developer of the Carefree Development Project.

The new Carefree will be a complex featuring six screens showing independent and foreign films. Also planned is a restaurant and dozens of apartments above the theater.

Cohen envisions a Greenwich Village feel. “In an expanding neighborhood like West Palm Beach, this would become a terrific cultural anchor on the southern side,” said Cohen.

The Shalhoub family is confident the new Carefree will remind them of the second home they loved so much.

“It's going to be something all of our family can be proud of knowing that we started it,” said Shalhoub.

The property is in the permitting and planning phase.

Cohen expects to open the new Carefree in 2019