1800 State Street,
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The Penway Theatre was a spacious and well-appointed neighborhood theater on State Street, one block up from Lincoln Elementary School and a block over from the entrance to Reservoir Park. It was situated on the corner of 18th Street and State Street.
A relative who lived in the neighborhood estimates that it opened around 1940 and that a ‘haunted house’ was torn down to make way for the theater.
A typical neighborhood drugstore was on the actual corner of the large and attractive brick building which also housed the theater and a small business beside it.
The Penway Theatre had an impressive triangular marquee. Under it the ticket booth was built into the middle of the entrance. Double entry doors were on each side of the ticket window.
Two display windows in polished black glass-like surfacing flanked the space under the marquee. One was for the set of eight lobby cards that came with most films in those days, and the other for a full-sized poster. Above the doors two more display windows announced coming attractions with what appeared to be hand-painted signs.
Neighborhood theaters generally showed three films a week, roughly Sunday/Monday, Tuesday/Wednesday, with Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for bigger attractions. (This schedule was variable, but pretty much followed that pattern).
Through the front doors was a fairly spacious lobby with a refreshment stand on the right and more poster windows for coming attractions on the left.
After having your ticket taken you passed though another set of doors to the auditorium. To the rear of the seating there was another open space with closet-sized restrooms and, as I remember, a mirrored water fountain and one of those popcorn machines with a glass dome where you could get a bag of popcorn for a dime. There was no balcony.
The auditorium seemed quite spacious and grand to me as a child. The high walls were decorated with what looked like panoramic Art Deco style renderings of pastoral landscapes and had large Deco-style lighting fixtures. There were exit doors to the side of the screen and along the 18th Street wall.
In the newspaper ads the Penway Theatre was linked to several other area theaters, the Grand Theatre and the Roxy Theatre in Harrisburg, and the Valle Theatre in Mechanicsburg.
The Penway Theatre was well loved and attended in its time, which probably lasted for about twenty-five years. It was eventually turned into a drugstore, which in turn went out of business. The building is currently used for offices.
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