Wellman Theater

29 West Liberty Street,
Girard, OH 44420

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The Wellman Theater dates back to at least 1940. The Wellman Theater is still listed in 1955 with 500 seats.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm

The owner of the Wellman Theatre was Peter M. Wellman, and a short biographical article about him was published in the December 18, 1948, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. Wellman immigrated to the U.S. from Greece in 1916, and got his first job in a movie theater from Michael Manos at Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and later owned three theaters in that state.

He moved to Girard in 1934 (a different issue of Boxoffice says 1936) after buying the Mock Theatre there. In 1937, he built a new movie house in Girard, calling it the New Mock Theatre. He then changed the name of the original Mock Theatre to the Wellman Theatre.

At the time of the 1948 article, Wellman was operating a circuit of ten hardtop theaters and four drive-ins, all in Ohio. The Wellman circuit operated the Wellman and New Mock theaters until 1959, when both house were sold to Al Garfield. Peter Wellman later took over his namesake theater again, because the April 26, 1966, issue of Boxoffice said that Paul DelVitto had bought the house from Pete Wellman. Then the May 8, 1967, Boxoffice reported that Wellman was operating the theater again, along with his Edgewood Cinema, and he called the Wellman his “hobby theater.”

The August 3, 1970, issue of Boxoffice said that George Pappas had leased the house from Wellman in 1969. Wellman apparently died not long after that. After a policy of showing regular films failed, Pappas began showing X-rated movies, with great success. He then renamed the theatre Cinema I. However, the town threatened to pass an ordinance banning such films, and after returning to conventional movies for three months, slack patronage led Pappas to close the house.

The last mention of the theater I’ve found in Boxoffice is in the February 7, 1972, issue which said that the Wellman’s Cinema I in downtown Girard had been sold to a company called Cinema I Ohio, Inc..

The fact that the New Mock vanishes about 1963, and the fact that later reports give the Wellman a seating capacity of 600 or more (the range of the New Mock in earlier reports, while the Wellman was usually reported to be in the 450-500 range) makes me wonder if perhaps Wellman closed the Mock/Wellman about that time and renamed the New Mock the Wellman. If this happened, Boxoffice apparently failed to mention it, though.

If somebody has FDY’s or other sources from around that time maybe they can check for changes of address for the Wellman Theatre. If I recall correctly, one issue of Boxoffice I’ve lost track of said that Wellman’s two theaters in Girard were next door to one another, so an address shift might be slight.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Boxoffice uses Mock’s Theatre and New Mock’s Theatre a few times, but after 1940 it appears to always be Mock. Mock was the surname of the previous owner. One Boxoffice item mentioned his first name, but I’ve forgotten it and lost track of the issue it was in. The possessive form Mock’s might well have been the actual name.

Google has no street views of Girard, but Bing Maps has a bird’s eye view, and the church/theater is easy to spot. The building looks like it was probably built in the 1930s (especially from the back) and seems to be the most modern building on the block. It seems more likely to me now that the church is in the New Mock building. The address is puzzling. If the church is at 29 W. Liberty, then the 35 W. Liberty address for the New Mock has a building that looks older than the church building.

There’s a Girard History web page, but it has little to say about the town’s theaters:

“One of the first theaters was the Luna Theater located on State Street. It ran silent movies, which were accompanied by piano mood music played by the owner’s wife. Later, the Mock Theater, which became the Wellman Theater, served Girard’s needs until the coming of TV when family movies faded from the scene.”
Then there’s this photo on Flickr showing the current front, which certainly has 1930s modern lines. Unfortunately it doesn’t show much of the adjacent buildings. In the Bing bird’s eye you can see that the back of the building next door to the west has one rear door correctly positioned for a theater exit, and what might have been another rear exit at the opposite end, so that might have been the Mock/Wellman. If so, then the church could be in the former New Mock at 35 W. Liberty and the building next door could have been the Mock/Wellman at 39 W. Liberty, and the addresses have been shifted.

As both theaters operated through the 1950s, there must still be some people from Girard who remember them, so I guess we can hope that one of them is on the Internet and discover this page and clears up the mystery.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 2, 2009 at 9:04 pm

The church’s statement that they are located in the former Wellman Theatre is what makes me wonder if the name Wellman was not moved to the New Mock about 1963, the last year the name New Mock appeared in the Boxoffice in anything other than a retrospective context. It would make more sense if the older and smaller theater had been closed and the New Mock remained open under the name Wellman. Boxoffice never says anything about the name being switched at that time, but Boxoffice doesn’t always cover every small town change. But if the church building is the old Mock/Wellman then it must have been a fairly new building when Wellman bought it in 1934, or even the back section has been extensively remodeled. It just doesn’t look like pre-1930s construction.

Girard’s practice of putting odd numbers on the south sides of east-west streets confused me. The building next door I was referring to that might have been the Wellman is east of the church, not west of it, and would have had a smaller number. But while there are several buildings on that block that might have been the former Mock/Wellman, I don’t see any other than the church that look like they could have been the New Mock. They just aren’t big enough. They also look too old to have been built as replacements for a building that still existed in 1963.

New England Film News of April 12, 1932, mentions Mock’s Theatre, Girard, Ohio, in a list of theaters that had installed RCA sound equipment. It looks like both names were used at various times.

milanp
milanp on January 1, 2011 at 10:30 am

Fun, funky little neighborhood house.
I remember seeing a double-feature of Woody Allen’s “Bananas” and “Midnight Cowboy” here in May 1971.

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