Liberty Theatre

733 McKean Avenue,
Donora, PA 15033

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The Liberty Theatre was one of three movie houses in Donora. The others were the Princess Theatre (also long demolished) and the Harris Theatre.

Primarily wooden construction, including the floor. Older style with a flat marquee, no room for letters, that ran the length of the front. ‘Liberty’ was in green neon top to bottom, two stories high on the left of the marquee.

The Liberty Theatre was a first run theatre that must have dated to the silent days since we found several old posters backstage that came from the 1920’s. The most recent found were probably around 1970 or so. After that it became the local adult house which lasted until maybe 1976 or so. Final run was in maybe 1978 with second run family type fare.

To be honest, what killed it was the family fare. The local kids came in by the busloads and chased away everyone else. Then they abandoned it when security was hired to control them. Too late to turn it around.

It was already carved up when we worked for the last operator so no real knowledge, other than the marquee, as to how the lobby area looked. Seating area was untouched with what were probably the original chairs. Backstage was big enough for stage shows and the then apartment in back was probably the former dressing area. No balcony but behind the stage was a skinny stairway down to the basement that led to a walkway that brought you back to the front of the building where a small wine making facility was. Still had vintage goodies intact.

The building was sold in the 1980’s to a church group who let it die a slow death. Torn down in the 1990’s.

Contributed by Ron Sterbenz

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on January 7, 2007 at 7:09 am

In May 1965, The Valley Independent reports: The Liberty, Donora, a double feature with Sean Connery in “Operation Snafu” and Vincent Price in “Tombo of Ligeia” (in Colorscope, no less).

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on January 7, 2007 at 7:20 am

The Liberty opened in 1935; in the late 1940s it was a Stanley-arner house.

dave-bronx™
dave-bronx™ on January 7, 2007 at 7:21 am

The Liberty opened in 1935; in the late 1940s it was a Stanley-Warner house.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 25, 2007 at 4:14 pm

Here is a 1958 article which mentions the Liberty and many other local theaters:

Movie attendance is picking up in the Mon Valley. But not nearly enough to reopen any of the theatres darkened several years ago by the advent of television. That seems to be the opinion of district theatre men. According to a survey by The Daily Independent, there was pretty general agreement that movie attendance is “considerably better” than a year ago. However movie crowds are still much smaller than in the Hollywood heyday during the forties. Frank Bugala, of the Manos Theatre chain, said he attributes the recent increase in attendance to two factors, better films and a tendency on the part of the public to tire of television.

“We are booking some excellent movies into our Manos Theatre in Monessen and State Theatre in Charleroi,” Bugala points but. He added that both “Old Yeller” and “Sayonara” played to good houses. Bugala said district movie-goers can expect these highly touted films in the weeks ahead: Peyton Dlace, Farewell to Arms, Raintree
County, and Witness for the Prosecution. Despite improving attendance, Bugala said the Manos company had no immediate plans to reopen he darkened Star Theatre.

In Donora, Mrs. Mary Davis, manager of the Harris Theatre, agreed that attendance is picking up. However the theatre, operated by Warner Brothers, is open only four days a week. On both Thursday and Friday, the Harris is open in the evening only. Two other Donora theatres â€"Liberty and Princess â€" have been closed for about eight years. There are no plans at present to open either, it was learned.

The only valley community which still has more than one movie house is Charleroi. Three theatres are still operating daily, the Coyle, Palace and State. All three reported “improved” attendance. Only one Charleroi theatre â€"the Menlo â€" has closed in recent years. In North Belle Vernon, the Verdi Theatre operates four days a
week, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In Belle Vernon, the Flitz Theatre has been closed for good and is now a school for bricklayers. The Bell Theatre in Fayette City is open on weekends. Attendance is about “50 per cent of what it used to be,” according to the manager.

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