Albert Sottile's company began construction of the Gloria theater in 1922, completing the building in 1927. On opening night, the theater screened the silent film After Midnight starring Norma Shearer and Lawrence Gray. By 1930, and the onset of the Great Depression, Americans were going to the movies ninety-five million times each week. Film theaters of this time showed 16-millimeter films that required a manual change-over to subsequent reels, so Mr. Sottile would entertain the crowds by singing Italian songs to them during these breaks. A grand organ was placed in the theater for accompaniment for silent films and music for the interludes.
When Albert Sottile purchased the 1850's building in 1921 on the corner of King Street and George Street, it contained the King Street-facing, double tenement building with living space on the upper two floors and retail space on the street level. The theater was constructed on the lot behind the building that Sottile originally purchased. The architects created a King Street entrance to the theater that passed through the existing building to the theater in the rear. After the closure of the Gloria in 1975, the King Street entrance was leased out to other tenants for many years, with the ornate marquee sign remaining on King Street and utilized by the various businesses that inhabited the space. The Gloria theater was donated to the College of Charleston in 1976 by the Sottile family.
In 1986 restoration began for the space to be used as a theater for the college. The remodeling took four years, and the renamed Sottile Theatre reopened in 1990. Due to expansions in the stage area and to accommodate a new lobby and primary entrance on George Street, the theater was opened with a vastly reduced seating capacity of 785 seats. The George Street entrance was not wholly new. Since the opening of the theater in 1927, the side entrance was utilized during the Jim Crow era as an entrance for African Americans. The side entrance led to a set of stairs directly up to the balcony area, which was the only place blacks were allowed to sit to view films and shows during this period.
During a renovation to the seating area beginning in 2011, work crews removed drapes and soundproofing panels that covered the interior walls of the theater. Underneath all of the material, workers found two massive murals that had been painted during the theater's construction in the 1920s. The art was painted on canvas by Italian artists from New York City that had been commissioned by Albert Sottile. One of the murals is still hanging, and both are currently undergoing painstaking restoration.
Today the Sottile theater is utilized for events for the Spoleto Festival, hosts the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and is being used by the College of Charleston for numerous shows and events each year.