State Theatre

212 Locust Street,
Harrisburg, PA 17112

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Showing 1 - 25 of 32 comments

jgrif96229 on August 24, 2014 at 10:51 pm

yes the Fabians operated the Colonial Theater. The Colonial theater had the worst electical wiring. I worked there for a short stint. Still hoping to find that Patriot/Evening Oct news article on the impending State Theater. I have listed my email address in the previous posting.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Articles about the opening of Wilmer & Vincent’s new State Theatre appeared in the April 12, 1926, issue of the Harrisburg Telegraph. One of them noted that the new theater had been designed by E. C. Horn & Sons.

chicagopaul on December 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I have the console from the Marr & Colton Pipe organ that was installed there, it is in excellent restored condition, but not connected to any pipes to play at this time.

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 8, 2012 at 12:13 am

I think the Fabians also owned the Colonial Theatre in Harrisburg.

jgrif96229 on July 31, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I was the last manager at the State Theatre in Harrisburg, Pa. It closed in October and I want to say 1975. They ran an article in the Patriot News showing myself and “Hop” my assistant manager with the story of the eminate sale. I have been trying to find that picture for years. I am currently 57 years young and live in the West Palm Beach / Palm Beach area. I worked for United Artist Theatres. They leased it from Fabian Management. The Fabian family decided to get out of the movie theatre ownership. The also owned the State Theatre in Allentown as well as a theatre in Easton. UATC acquired the newly completed Camp Hill Twin theatre which was the last Fabian theatre to be built. Unfortunately UATC found a buyer in Alleghany Utilities and negotiated the sale of the property and thus ended their obligation with Fabian on that property. The city of Harrisburg never had the chance to make a move to preserve the property.

Anyone with pictures should communicate to . Thanks Joseph

portzguy on February 26, 2011 at 6:10 am

No problem at all, John!

Dr. Bill is just one block off. A quick search online shows 228-232 N Court St. to be on the west side of Court directly behind the PA Rural Electrical building on Locust St. (where the theatre building once stood).

Judging by nearby buildings, it’s not impossible that the theatre building extended to the Court St. addresses. I’ll keep an eye out for more info.

1posterfan4sure on February 26, 2011 at 4:53 am

Tim: A good question, and one that someone with access to an old map could probably answer for sure, but I think I have a partial answer.

WCMB-TV was not in the State Theater Building as I had heard many years ago from a now-deceased co-worker at WKBO. Since the address on Court Street would seem to be in the right vicinity, I had no reason to doubt it. However, today I asked a co-worker (I think you know Mr. Kauffman) who had worked at WCMB radio in the early 1960s. He tells me WCMB-TV was located on Court Street between Walnut and Locust behind what is now the Federal Building, constructed in 1964. Court Street, then and now, is little more than an alley, but many businesses had addresses in those little side streets.

I’m not quite buying that location, however, as the 200 block of Court Street is north of Locust, and 228-232 would be about midway between Locust and Pine, well north of the Federal Building. Perhaps someone else could pinpoint that address. If WCMB-TV was not in the State Theatre Building, what building was it in?

While I was originally told the old TV studios were “intact,” I took that as meaning the rooms in which they were located were still recognizable as TV studios but that the actual equipment had been dismantled.

Sorry for spreading misinformation!

portzguy on February 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm

John S in York, you commented that WCMB-TV was in the State Theatre building. Was the theatre building large enough that it included addresses on Court Street (essentially at the north-east of the building)? I have newpaper articles and equipment invoices that indicate that the station was located at 228-232 N Court Street, not on Locust St.

By the way, WMBS, the forerunner of WHP, had studios in the theatre building and a transmitter shack on the roof in the late 1920’s. The station was owned by W.S. “Mack” McCachren. The shack suffered a fire in March 1927 after only two months of operation. The transmitter was moved to Lemoyne later that year, but the studios stayed in the theater building until around 1930 when the Stackpole family bought WHP. (Ironically, the studios only moved one building away to the Harrisburg Telegraph building at 216 Locust.)

Ross Care
Ross Care on December 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

View link
Happy Holidays to All!
Ross Care

TheBareWall on November 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm

P.S. The big street-side box office was preserved and is now in the lobby of Theatre Harrisburg’s offices and occasional theatrical venue on Hurlock Street in Uptown Harrisburg. Ronn

TheBareWall on November 22, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I was one of the principals involved in the effort to save the State so I can speak only to that period. I became a resident of the city in 1962 and attended many showings there. At the start of that decade the place was still lively and there were sell-out crowds on the weekends; the balconys were full… The costs to “save” the theater were inflated to discourage our group and the estimate was made by a firm hoping to win the contract to demolish and rebuild. (They didn’t.) A second opinion said the structure was sound and the cost of conversion for stage attractions would be much lower. There was a huge stage space, ample room above for flying flats, and several dressing rooms one flight down from the stage… The Rural Electric Assn. at first promised to turn over the property for a few thousand (doubting our abilities to raise such) but when the funds poured in they quickly reneged and it became a political football of sorts. It became clear to us that the city wanted “taxes” that they hoped a new building would bring… There is much more to the story involving the Historic Harrisburg Assn. and city hall too involved to report here … The photo mentioned above does show the entrance to the men’s lounge on the floor below. If you “mirror image” the picture, the women’s is under the opposite staircase … I am no techie so I don’t know what it means, but the only remnant we found in the projection booth was several yards of very wide film; apparently it was to be used to adjust the dolby sound for “Jesus Christ, Superstar” if we understood the markings correctly. Maybe that means something to someone … The final showing (I was there with a handful of other “preservationists”) was a porno entitled “Naked Lunch.” Sorry, I don’t recall the plot if there was one …

1posterfan4sure on November 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Ronn – I also thank you for those photos. I never thought I would ever see any pix of the State, much less in color! I remember that ornate lobby well, with it’s marble staircases leading up to the mezzanine. I always wanted to see what was beyond those staircases but the balcony was always closed. That auditorium photo is fantastic. I was startled by the detail of the proscenium arch. I don’t remember ever seeing it, but it was probably obscured by draperies covering the screen. Looking at those photos made me think again about what a loss to the city the demolition of the State really was. To think Harrisburg had a showplace like that into the 1970s and let it all go.

Ross Care
Ross Care on November 13, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Ronn – I had to search for the State photos but it was way worth it. I never thought I get to see those interiors again. Many thanks! The State was even more ornate that I remembered. The one photo showed the entrance to the downstairs men’s lounge, right?

I have an album with historic Harrisburg theater photos on FLICKr:

View link

Neat blog. I’ll look into it more.

I was also a theater buff and saw many tryouts in Philly. My biggest coup: seeing Sondheim’s ANYONE CAN WHISTLE at the Forrest.

I also used to compose theater scores for Open Stage of Harrisburg, which, ironically, is located right behind where my favorite theater, the Senate, used to be.

Ross Care
Ross Care on November 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Mike – The STATE was right down from Capitol Park, about a half a block, so you could say it was around the corner from the Capitol buildings. It was about a block and a half from Front St. and the Susquehanna river.
Harrisburg, my hometown, was quite a nice city in its prime. I don’t know what’s it’s like now. All the downtown theaters were razed. I think the Senate on Market Square was the last to go.
When I was there a few years ago I think they had an IMAX on Market St., down from the square.

TheBareWall on November 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

For interior pictures of the State go to the August 18, 2009, entry here: TheBareWall

Mikeoaklandpark on November 12, 2010 at 10:38 am

I went to HArrisburg 2 times between 1972 and 1974 anf there was a UA State theater right around the corner from the capital. By any chance is this the same theater. The first time I was there the theater had just closed the day before I got there and they were removing seats.

Ross Care
Ross Care on November 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

1956 photo of the State showing WAR AND PEACE in VistaVision:
View link

carolgrau on February 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Brenkart BX 80’s Ashcraft high intensity lamps, that burned 150 amps, and 2 RCA amps, no dolby and I remember very clearly the amps both were just mono.The scope lenses weighed in at 15 pounds each and were very long, Monsters they were, but they were great.

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 21, 2010 at 8:14 am

PS: “Fantasia” at the Senate was the ‘50s SuperScope revival which cut off the top and bottom of the frame to make it wide-screen.
Which reminds me, I’m off to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic play Ravel and Stravinsky at the amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall this afternoon.

Ross Care
Ross Care on February 21, 2010 at 8:06 am

When I saw the first CinemaScope film, “The Robe,” I definitely remember the stereo sound, a big climax of sound coming from all around in the Palm Sunday sequence.
Part of the ad hype for ‘Scope was the new sound system: “In the Wonder of High-Fidelity Directional-Stereophonic Sound.”
Film composers even occasionally orchestrated in stereo, i.e., Bernard Herrmann’s use of brass in “Garden of Evil.”
I don’t know how long this system held up or how long it was used. I was away at college during the last days of the State and then I moved to Lancaster. It may not have been compatible with later films.
The Senate, Harrisburg’s second 'Scope theater, also had stereo sound. I mention elsewhere seeing “Fantasia” there and the church bells in “Night on Bald Mountain” coming from the back of the theater.
I’m a musician, a child of the hi-fi/stereo revolution, and was very sensitive to sound even then.

1posterfan4sure on February 21, 2010 at 7:36 am

Well, I was asking about the booth and anything else that wasn’t readily available to the general public, including the mezzanine and balcony levels, as Dave has described, and the backstage, basement and any other parts of the building that we never got to see. Whenever I went there the balcony was closed. I never saw the State beyond the ground floor and always wondered what the place looked like at the top of that marble staircase.

It’s interesting that such a spacious theater would have such a cramped, hot booth. What kind of projectors were used? Were they of recent vintage at the time or did they date back a few decades? I always remember the ‘Scope image at the State as very sharp and bright, much superior to some other theaters.

Dave, one thing that was never used when I went to the State was stereo sound, which some have said the State had. Motion pictures using stereo sound were not at all common back then, so it’s not surprising it wasn’t used very often. Can you recall some films in which it was?

JohnMessick on February 21, 2010 at 6:27 am

Dave, I think John S is referring to the projection booth.

carolgrau on February 21, 2010 at 5:45 am

I don’t know what you mean by upstairs???? Had a huge mezanine area outside the balcony doors where they put some tables so you could sit there and wait or eat. I always wondered later on as I went back to PGH. in 74, and was back at the Warner wich had Dolby sound, What the State would have been like with a great Dolby system?? Had a very small booth, we used to call it hell house, got so hot. a very large balcony that seemed to go up forever then when you got to the top you had to go up more steps to the booth.

muviebuf on February 20, 2010 at 8:25 am

The last time I was there several years ago one of the small sculpted marble wall decorations in the form of a fountain from the State Theatre was mounted on the entrance wall of the PA Rural Electric Building which now sits on the site.

1posterfan4sure on February 20, 2010 at 8:17 am

Turning an old theater into a performing arts center, including showing movies, takes friends at city hall who in turn have friends in the corporate world. York had that with Mayor John Krout and Louis Appell of Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff (whose grandfather built the Strand.) That’s how the Strand-Capitol came to be. In 1973 Harrisburg was suffering through one its worst administrations in city hall. The next mayor, Steve Reed, like him or not, would have jumped through hoops to save the State. He tried to save the Colonial but it was too late. (Apparently he didn’t feel much affection for the Senate, however, if that axe story is accurate!) Downtown York was a ghost town and the Strand-Capitol helped turn it around. The State could have done the same thing for Harrisburg. I just think some things are worth saving and the State was one of them.

23 weeks for “MASH?” I stand corrected, Norelco. You should know. And I’m not surprised that with continuous shows, even that film played to an empty house occasionally. When I worked at the Eric as an usher, I remember that happening sometimes on Sunday afternoons, so it wasn’t just the downtown theaters.

Norrelco, you have an insider’s view of the State the rest of us can only dream of. What was it like upstairs?