Colonial Theatre

840 Cumberland Street,
Lebanon, PA 17042

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Showing 19 comments

Hillary on September 30, 2011 at 4:44 am

Agreed John. Every time I drive through 9th & Cumberland, I think of the song that goes, “They tore down paradise and put up a parking lot.” Literally, a shame.

JimmiB on September 29, 2011 at 11:13 pm

I was in the State building one time for my wife’s class reunion. This is after it became “On Stage”. It’s last hurrah as a movie theatre was X rated films. I can’t find anything on the fire that destroyed the back of the Academy, but my wife says it was in the fatal fire that destroyed the buildings from 7th street up to the Academy. Probably about 1986. After the HACC fire, the rest of the half block was demolished for the new HACC campus.

JohnMessick on September 29, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hillary….after I posted, it dawned on me what a flat was. Thank you. Isn’t is something that man can build great things and then let them fall into reuins. Seeing photos on Cinema Treasures of movie theatres when they are new and have just been opened, and then seeing them in ruins really breaks the heart.

Hillary on September 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm

John, painted flats are large canvas sheets with scenery painted on them, and hung on the stage for live performances. The flats from the Academy may very well have dated back to vaudeville. I’m pretty sure one of them was full of advertisements. I don’t remember much of anything of the State theater before its conversion to nightclub (called “On Stage” with a clever sign alteration).
For the record, when all the controversy was brewing around the condition of the Colonial, my husband and I were granted access. This was after it was “stripped” of all its valuables. At least some of the flats were still there, hanging behind the curtain. The person who escorted us (one of the salvagers) told us by the time he got in there, the valuable fixtures in question were already removed. All he got out of the theater were some cast iron seat ends which he restored. I can tell you what we saw would have made you cry. I can’t believe there was ANYTHING of value left by the time the “investor” bought it; whatever remained was severely damaged by exposure. It’s a shame because that was a beautiful and (for its time) a well-appointed theater.

JohnMessick on September 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm

JimmiB and Hillary…What do you remember of the State? What was it like on the inside?

JohnMessick on September 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm

JimmiB….I didn’t know there were Messicks in Lebanon. I reside in Camp Hill. The fire that I am referring to is the HACC fire. I remember the “investor” who bought the Colonial at the tax sale. He claimed all he had was Social Security to live on. What is a painted flat?

JimmiB on September 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

John, I live in Lebanon. John Heisey was owner of Lebanon Bus Co. and Lebanon Coach Co. He also was owner of the former Messick’s Food Market. I thought you might have been part of that branch of the Messick family. There were two major fires in that block. One was the Greektown Pizza fire which had one fatality and destroyed about a half block of buildings. I think this is the fire that destroyed the rear of the Academy. The other was the Lebanon campus of HACC, the conversion of a closed department store. Caused by welding sparks, this destroyed several buildings and led to the death of a Lebanon fire fighter. I’ll see if I can find more on the Academy fire. Hillary, I didn’t know about the flats being moved to the Colonial but if they were worth anything they were probably sold by the “investor” that bought the building at tax sale. I understand that he stripped anything of value before he abandoned it.

Hillary on September 29, 2011 at 4:47 am

The roof could have been repaired, but the damage caused by that hole was extensive. Much of the ornate plaster on the ceilings and the walls had migrated onto the carpet. And fixtures like the seats, projectors, concession stand were all ruined. A sad irony: old painted flats were removed from the Academy before the auditorium was demolished and taken to the Colonial for preservation. Unless somehow they were saved, they might have been lost with that building.

JohnMessick on September 29, 2011 at 3:14 am

JimmiB…Wasn’t there a fire in that block that took the Academy and several other buildings?

JohnMessick on September 29, 2011 at 3:12 am

JimmiB, I don’t know you. I have never met John Heisey. Where do you reside?

JimmiB on September 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Mr.Messick, you probably don’t know me but I believe we had a mutual acquaintance in John Heisey. I was on that tour of the Academy. We were not allowed in the balcony because it was in imminent danger of collapse.

John Simmers
John Simmers on September 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

I don’t know all the details and I am telling this based on a few details I recall from 25 years ago. There was an organization, probably called “Friends of the Academy,” which was formed to save the Academy of Music further down the street. A friend of mine had some involvement in it. The Academy was in wretched condition. He told me that when they toured the Academy there were some areas which they couldn’t see because the floor was so weak it would have given way. When the Colonial became available there was discussion of shifting the preservation efforts to the Colonial because it was in better overall condition. He told me there was a founding member of the committee who had enough clout to completely squash the idea. It was the Academy or nothing, he told me, and the remaining members couldn’t get enough traction to move on the Colonial idea themselves.

JohnMessick on September 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

The roof of the Colonial could have been repaired…buying it at a tax sell would have been a great buy….The roof could have been repaired and the building could have been saved. I don’t think the “Friend” were up to the challenge.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on December 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

From the early 1920s a postcard view of the Colonial Theatre in Lebanon PA.

Hillary on September 2, 2010 at 7:50 am

The Colonial was open at least until 1982, showing “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” as possibly its last feature. It was sold to an individual at a tax auction for $49. The “Friends of the Colonial” could have purchased it at the time, but were aware of the (already) extensive damage caused by a substantial hole in the roof. By the time anything was removed, the interior of that building was most likely beyond economical repair. A real shame.

magchase on August 23, 2010 at 3:45 am

This theatre was surely open until at least 79-80. I was born in 1975 and the first film I ever saw in a theatre was here when I was 4-5 years old. It was Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy and remember it like it was yesterday.

JimmiB on April 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Just did a little research and found that the Colonial had a second floor ballroom. Also, the Friends of the Colonial Theater was formed in 1991.

JimmiB on April 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

This theatre was still open when I moved to Lebanon in March, 1979. It had to be open for a year or two after that because I went to several movies there and a big band concert. I don’t have the dates offhand, but after it closed a group was formed to try to save it. Before they could raise enough money, it was purchased by a salvage company, who stripped all the old fixtures then abandoned it. By the time the city took title it was beyond repair and was demolished. If I can come up with any other details, I’ll post them. I’m sure of it being open in 1979, because I moved here on the day of the TMI accident.