Strand Theater

315 Market Street,
Sunbury, PA 17801

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Strand Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Strand Theater was the larger of two Sunbury theaters, the smaller being the 612 seat; Rialto Theater.

Originally opened in 1910 as the People’s Theater, it was a handsome light brick building with a grand marquee that featured moving lights and provided quite a bit of life and light to Market Street. The theater was very well kept and well managed. It was taken over by the Commerford chain in 1919 and renamed Strand Theater. It was remodeled in 1951 to the plans of architect Michael J. DeAngelis. It had a large CinemaScope screen which was installed for the movie “The Robe” in 1953.

I am not certain of the date it closed, but I believe that like the rest of Market Street, it fell victim to nearby malls. The once thriving Market Street is now a shadow of its former self. The building is now used as an electrical supply warehouse.

Contributed by Gary Hoy

Recent comments (view all 39 comments)

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on June 21, 2011 at 7:24 am

YesJoe, the Strand was originally known as the Peoples Theatre. I have seen a couple of pictures with that name on the building. You are also correct about the original entrance. It was on the side of the building facing the square until the early 1950’s. The building you see on the coener was torn down and a new Lobby and entrance with large marquee were added at that time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 21, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Mr. J. M. Blanchard was mentioned as the operator of the People’s Theatre in a couple of 1913 issues of The Moving Picture World. In the November 1 issue, he was cited as being displeased that a cinematic version of “Quo Vadis?” was not being made available to movie theaters. The producers were attempting to attract an audience that didn’t usually attend movies, and they advertised that their production had never been shown in a movie house, but only in regular theaters.

The regular theater that showed the movie in Sunbury was probably the Chestnut Street Opera House, the only such theater listed at Sunbury in Julius Cahn’s guides during the period. Despite its name, the opera house played vaudeville for much of its history, and might have shown movies as part of the programs. If so, it should be added to Cinema Treasures.

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on June 22, 2011 at 9:22 am

I found mention of the People’s Theatre in a 1910 trade column in an old newspaper. By the comments, it seems that it was strictly vaudeville then.

Patsy
Patsy on July 7, 2012 at 8:51 am

When I saw the photo with the great marquee it made me smile then I read….“I am not certain of the date it closed, but I believe that like the rest of Market Street, it fell victim to nearby malls. The once thriving Market Street is now a shadow of its former self. The building is now used as an electrical supply warehouse.”

Jack Theakston
Jack Theakston on February 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I suspect this theater was actually opened around 1928, owned by the Commerford Amusement Co. chain. If that is the case, I also suspect the original architect was Leon Lempert, Jr. The lobby in the BoxOffice magazine article looks a lot like Lempert’s Capitol in Rome.

jeffreyt
jeffreyt on February 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm

The Lobby was part of an early 1950’s renovation by New York theatre architect Michael DeAngelis. The theatre was owned then by United Paramount which was after it was owned by Comerford. It was open in 1910 as the People’s Theatre.

Patsy
Patsy on February 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

Thanks gentlemen for your informative comments. I have been in contact with the grandson of Michael De Angelis. He has posted on the Stage Theatre CT link and has provided his email address there!

Jack Theakston
Jack Theakston on February 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I was referring to the “before” picture. Those poster cases and fixtures are similar to the ones that were installed by Lempert’s crews in all of the Comerford theaters during that period.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm

The April 21, 1928, issue of Motion Picture News had an article about the Comerford chain’s plans to rebuild the Strand in Sunbury. The plans, which would have nearly doubled the seating capacity of the house to between 1,600 and 1,700 must have been scaled back.

Oddly, the article said that the project had been designed by a George Morris of Scranton. This is the first time I’ve come across a claim that anyone other than Leon H. Lempert Jr. had designed a theater for Comerford in the 1920s. I’ve been unable to find any other references to a Scranton architect named George Morris, but a 1916 newspaper item mentions a George Morris managing a Comerford house in Scranton. I suspect that Motion Picture News got the information scrambled somehow. The Strand project, like other Comerford projects of the period, was almost certainly designed by Leon Lempert.

The article noted that Comerford had taken over the People’s Theatre in 1919 and it had been renamed Strand at that time.

orgnyst6226
orgnyst6226 on July 4, 2014 at 4:22 am

I’m uploading a picture of the Moller Organ Console which I own and rebuilt that was originally installed in this theatre. Moller OPUS 5214 installed 1928. I’m from PA living in South Florida and found this console in 2003 in Gas City Indiana. Started rebuilding it almost as soon as I got home (PA at that time). Humidity destroyed the keyboards as they were all warped and it had an extremely thick layer of stain on the wood. I later learned that seeing natural wood grain was not in vogue back in the 20’s. At any rate, I spend weeks sanding it down and found beautiful tiger oak wood grain underneath all that stain. I completely gutted the console and due to it’s rather large size cut 6" off each side of the console. I don’t know what happened to the original pipes from the organ (7 ranks I think) but I had intended on connecting it to my 18 rank Moller I had installed at home at that time. Shortly after rebuilding the console I moved to Fla. and had no room for my pipe organ any longer. I donated the pipes to a church and connected the 3 manual Moller using the Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ system. At any rate, wanted to post a few pictures of the console as it is today and document it’s new home for this website.

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