State Theatre

213 Federal Plaza W,
Youngstown, OH 44503

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Lobby

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The State Theatre opened in early-1927 with John Gilbert & Greta Garbo in “Flesh and the Devil”. Designed by architect Charles W. Bates, with engineer William M. Cook, it had a narrow entrance and lobby which fronted West Federal Street, Youngstown’s principal business street at the time. Over the entrance is a large arched opening, framed by Roman columns and originally topped with a palladian window.

The auditorium was reached from the lobby over an enclosed bridge spanning a rear alley.

Operated as a movie theatre until the early-1970’s, it was then used as a nightclub known as the Agora. Plans have been discussed to renovate the lobby as a museum for Idora Park, a defunct Youngstown Amusement Park.

There has also been interest by a local playhouse to obtain and renovate the theatre, however most of the State Theatre’s interior features have already been obliterated and the auditorium may be beyond feasible repair.

Situated one block east of the renovated Powers Auditorium, formerly the Warner Theatre, the State Theatre’s renovation would have been a definite plus to downtown revitalization. Sadly, the State Theatre was demolished in late-November 2008, only the front wall was saved.

Contributed by John C. Harris

Recent comments (view all 125 comments)

milanp
milanp on October 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Thanks for posting those old newspaper ads. Talk about a blast from the past—such fun seeing them again! I’m also happy to learn that my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me re: opening dates. Perhaps the reason I didn’t remember “Star!” or “Finian’s Rainbow” as “roadshow” style engagements was that I bought my ticket(s) the day of show and sat wherever I liked. Of course, that sort of thing was always easier to do in large venues like the State or Wedgewood than, say, the Uptown where the Fosters were always sticklers for rules, lol. Even if the theater was practically empty (like, for example, during their roadshow booking of “Sweet Charity” later that year) an usher would make sure that you stayed in your assigned seat at all times. Also interesting to see that some of the area drive-ins were going strong…in January. And with such interesting, auteur-friendly double-bills.
“Bullitt” and “Petulia”!?! “The Stalking Moon” and “Poor Cow”!?!?!?!
Crazy, crazy stuff—I love it!

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on October 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm

You’re entirely welcome. With all the multi-screen theaters, all in area malls and plaza’s now we seem to be low man on the totum pole when it comes to blockbuster films, and we almost have to use magnifying glasses to read the ads in the local paper.

It’s sad that the days of the old time movie palaces are just memories and that our one remaining downtown theater doesn’t take advantage of its equipment to at least have occassional film festivals.

I was suprised to learn that the Stambaugh Auditorium also has projectors and screen. One of their upcoming shows this month is a silent film and their Skinner pipe organ will provide the music to go with it.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on October 16, 2011 at 4:49 am

By June of 1970, downtown Youngstown ceased to be a destination for movie fans, and even most of the neighborhood theaters were closed, forcing people to go to the malls and plaza’s outside the city to see the latest flick. The New Park burlesque would hold on a couple more years, and the Warner, by now known as Powers Auditorium would still be open, but its projectors would be silenced in favor of live stage shows and concerts.

This theater page ad for June 14, 1970 reflects that change.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=JxdJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=oYMMAAAAIBAJ&pg=752%2C5198885

The State would hang on for a while longer but would be a second or third run house until it was transformed into a nightclub first known as the Tomorrow Club and then the Agora.

As for the Paramount, it was on borrowed time but occassionally would bring in a decent film such as Hello Dolly as seen in this ad.

The one form of theater that the conglomerates couldn’t draw away from the city was live theater and Powers Auditorium and Stambaugh Auditorium would book in big time personalities but on a sparce schedule of two or three shows each year each until the Covelli Center added to the mix bringing the number to three, but this center is also a sports arena so it doesn’t really fit the theater model even though it does bring in big names such as Barry Manalow, Mannheim Steamroller, Disney On Ice, and The Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Downtown Youngstown is undergoing a renasaunce with three highrise apartment complexes catering to the affluent professionals and during the summer months the City brings in a weekly schedule of films shown outdoors at the Covelli Center that are well attended hoping that this might inspire someone to bring a movie theater back downtown, but even if that happens, we’ll never see a true movie palace there again unless new blood brings a movie schedule back to Powers. All the needed equipment is there, but not the will.

Dudester21
Dudester21 on December 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

http://www.vindy.com/news/tributes/2011/dec/29/stephen-michael-steve-stahar/

Man who used to manage the rock clubs at the State Theater in 70s and 80s died on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011.

Pretty incredible to think that young and upcoming bands like the Ramones, AC/DC, KISS and Rush played that joint. I know it’s an important historical place for movies, but it’s probably the most significant rock ‘n’ roll venue in the city’s history.

Dudester21
Dudester21 on January 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Just doing some light research through the Vindy archives and it seems like the theater was used in some form until the late 80s. By 1986 it was called the Star Palace and looked to be catering less to hard rock ‘n’ roll acts that made the venue popular in the Tomorrow Club and Agora era. There are concert dates in the paper in 1987. I would assume it closed shortly thereafter.

The Agora era ended on July 23, 1982 when it abruptly closed. Bankruptcy followed. Lots of reports of fighting/vandalism associated with the facility in 1982 helped lead to its demise. It was reopened as State Theater and Civic Center in late Sept./early Oct. 1983.

Jack Gerchok, who owned and operated the Tomorrow Club and Agora, died in Jan. 1991 at the age of 52.

As far as films are concerned, Sept. 1970 seems to be the last of the ads in the Vindicator. The last film advertised is “Tropic of Cancer”.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on July 25, 2013 at 6:57 am

During the first two years of it’s life 1928-29 the State had a movie and vaudeville program, but in 1930 no furthe live vaudeville was presented. The plan was one feature film followed by five vaudeville acts.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on October 9, 2013 at 7:08 am

Emil Renner (a member of the Renner Brewery family) was one of the original owners of the State. He also oned the Princess Theatre; Realto Theatre; Uptown Theatre; Mahoning Theater; Cameo Theater; and Victor Theater, all of Youngstown.

The Cameo Theater was built at the same time that the State was built and was located between Chestnut and Fifth Avenue in downtown Youngstown and had a seating capacity of 800. It lasted for about 20 years before it closed, and the building was later demolished.

There is very little information about the Cameo other than what I mentioned, so I can’t give it its own page unless someone can provide more information. I do have a photo of the outside of the Cameo.

edblank
edblank on October 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

This is a longshot, but … As a child in 1952 I visited an adult sibling in Youngstown and saw movies with her that were playing concurrently that weekend. Can anyone tell me which Downtown Youngstown theater played “Where’s Charley?” and which played “Don’t Bother to Knock” (those theaters were practically side by side) and which played the reissued double bill of “Dodge City” and “Virginia City”? That theater was less impressive than the other two and was directly across the street from “Where’s Charley?” as I recall. Many thanks for any help.

wolfgirl500
wolfgirl500 on October 9, 2013 at 10:33 am

It sounds like you are referring to either the Palace and Strand or the Paramount and State, but most likely the less impressive of them would have been the Strand. On the other hand,the Paramount and State were across the street from each other.

Victorgan
Victorgan on August 2, 2014 at 4:04 am

The State Theatre held a 3 Manual 12 Rank Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ, installed in 1928. It was removed, rebuilt, enlarged and re-installed in a Kingston, Ontario church.

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