Cascade Picture Palace

11-15 S. Mill Street,
New Castle, PA 16101

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Exterior of Cascade Picture Palace

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Located in the heart of the New Castle, PA, downtown, The Cascade Picture Palace was the first theatre operated by the Warner Brothers. Well, almost. Actually, they began showing movies in the back room of a funeral parlor further along E. Washington Street. 50 or so folding chairs were set up and the single, hand-crank projector spooled out 7 minute novelty films on a 7 foot glass mirror.

The Warner’s lived in nearby Youngstown, OH and had earned some money with a primitive projector and portable screen and a tent. They moved from town to town showing brief films were ever they could attract an audience willing to view the new miracle. Pittsburgh, New Castle and Youngstown were burgeoning industrial centers at the time and, by 1903, any one of the three could have eventually grown into a major city.

The Warner’s found a sizable audience in New Castle with no competition. Pittsburgh’s Nickelodeon (the world’s first), was open and thriving. The movie theatre/funeral home was successful for more than two years. At various points it was called the Bijou (little gem) and the Pioneer. Several other store-front cinemas had popped up along Washington Street, including the Dome, Nixon, Star and Park Theatres. Not to be outdone, the Warner’s opened the Cascade Movie Palace a few doors down from the funeral home on February 2, 1907.

The Cascade Picture Palace featured real theatre seats and a permanent screen. The hand-crank projector displayed 7 minute episodes of the newly emerging feature films. Because the projectionist had to change reels every few minutes, each reel was advertised as ‘A Drama in 8 Acts’, or the like.

Time moved on and so did the Warner Brothers. Harry Warner moved to New York to handle their ever growing chain of palatial theatres and Jack Warner to Hollywood to produce films and establish the WB studio.

According to, now long gone, New Castle operators, the Warner’s wanted to build a fabulous theatre in New Castle to commemorate the start of their empire. As rumor goes, when word got out, the price of the land sky-rocketed. The plan for New Castle was abandoned and a theatre was built instead in Youngstown. The Warner Theatre/Powers Auditorium still stands and is home to the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.

The site of the Cascade Picture Palace eventually became a Neisner 5 & 10 store and offices. In recent years a non-profit group has purchased this and other buildings in an attempt to create a memorial to the Warner Brothers. All that has seemed to evolve to date is a second floor, upscale restaurant which recently closed and a reproduction of the front of the Cascade Picture Palace in the buildings main lobby. The display includes an old seat and an equally old, but probably not from the Cascade, projector, complete with (sigh) CinemaScope lens. It would truly be nice to see a real Warner theatre opened as a tourist and historical commemorative.

Contributed by Jack Oberleitner

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Audrey Przybylski
Audrey Przybylski on May 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm

The board of the Warner Film Center wants to send you away. The non-profit organization is offering a chance to win three trips. They will be given away this summer. According to John Meyers, vice president of the center, “these lavish vacations amount to over $5,000 in total value.” The third-place winner will receive a three-night stay at a five-star resort in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee near legendary Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the Dollywood theme park. The Oct. 11, 12 and 13 excursion is during prime foliage time. The second-place winner will spend Sept. 13, 14 and 15 in a five-star suite in Nashville, Tenn. The Music City resort is near Opryland and other major attractions. The grand prize winner will receive a seven-night stay in a luxury suite at Florida’s Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando from Aug. 23 to 29. The resort features deluxe amenities and is close to Disney and Universal theme parks. All accommodations are one-bedroom suites, sleeping two, with a fold-out couch in the living room for two more. The tickets are $10 each and only 1,000 will be printed. Treasurer William Brown said the winners will be determined by the three-digit, evening drawing of the Pennsylvania Lottery for July 1, 2 and 3. All proceeds go directly to the Warners’ film birthplace construction and development fund, he added. Anyone interested in purchasing tickets can visit the news and events section of the Warner Film Center website, www.warnerfilmcenter.org, contact any member of the board of trustees, or call sweepstakes sales chairman Tim May at (724) 652-0875.

Audrey Przybylski
Audrey Przybylski on May 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Movie Memories, Part 1: Victor one of many long-gone local theatersDan Irwin 05/20/2013 11:12 AM

If you ever found footprints on the toilet seat at the Penn Theater, blame Dave Kalata. Kalata, a New Jersey resident and New Castle native, once worked at as a projectionist at the now-defunct North Mercer Street cinema, as well as at others around the New Castle and Youngstown area. But before that, he was simply a kid who loved going to the movies. “I don’t know how many times I went into the Penn Theater for their Saturday morning cartoons,” Kalata said of the movie house that sat on lots now occupied by Huntington Bank’s drive-through. “They would normally empty out the theater before the main feature; maybe it was starting at 4 or 4:30, something like that. “I would tell a couple of the other guys I went with, ‘I’m going to stay and see the other show.’ ‘But it’s going to cost you 25 cents,’ or whatever it was. I said ‘It’s OK, let me see what I can do.’ ” At that point, Kalata would head to the restroom, enter a stall and stand on the toilet seat. He’d wait while an usher cleaned the facility and until he could hear people starting to enter the theater again. “Then I would walk out and walk into the auditorium with them,” he said.

MOVIE MEMORIES Chances are, if you were born anytime between the late 1920s and the 1990s, you, too, have memories of heading into downtown New Castle to see a film. It was an era that ended in 2003 with the closing of The Cinema, which stood next to the New Castle Beauty School on East Washington Street. Others that folks still alive today may recall include the Victor, the Vogue and Paramount (pre-Cinema theaters in the same building) and the Regent, all on East Washington. Theaters beyond the downtown area included the Hi-Lander (the building still exists on Highland Avenue), the State (on Long Avenue, now the New Castle Playhouse), the Crescent (at the corner of Liberty and Madison avenues in Mahoningtown) and even the auditorium of the Scottish Rite Cathedral. In Union Township, the Super Castle (where Walmart is today) and the Skyline (behind the Parkstown Restaurant) held sway with drive-in aficionados. Each had a personality nowhere to be found in today’s generic multiplexes. Take, for instance, the Victor.

THE VICTOR Originally The Nixon when it opened in 1918, the Victor – located next to the former Lawrence Savings & Trust Building on the north side of East Washington Street, between Mill and East streets – had no restrooms. That, Jack Oberleitner noted, was common in early 20th century nickelodeons, since programs generally lasted on about 30 minutes. Oberleitner owns a cinema consulting firm, Oberleitner & Associates, but his first job was as an usher at The Victor, which his father managed. The Dome – which opened in 1907 and ended up as The Cinema after incarnations as the Paramount, the Vogue and the New Vogue – also lacked comfort facilities, Oberleitner said. “That became a problem by the late 1920s and ’30s, when movies had become more like the full-length features we know today,” Oberleitner explained. “Now they needed restrooms. But these places were originally converted storerooms and they really didn’t have a place for restrooms. So both the Dome and the Victor put the restrooms in the same place: behind the screen. That was the only open space.” Signs on either side of the screen were revised to say “Exit/Men” or “Exit/Women” to point out the restrooms – which wasn’t always a good thing. “Routinely, some lady would be walking down the aisle and kids would start chanting, ‘We know where you’re going,’ ” Oberleitner said. “Eventually, they renovated the Dome, but the Victor was like that until the day it closed. So when the Penn Theater came along in the late ’20s and had restrooms in the lobby, and they were more than makeshift, that was a big deal.” Oberleitner said that the Victor never had a concession stand, either, until the 1950s. Its auditorium had the shape of a “squared off pork chop,” he added, with one section of seats having 10 to 12 more rows than the other. The Victor closed in 1951 for seven years before reopening with a concession stand and double- and triple-features of second-run films. “You could go there to see three science fiction pictures or three westerns for 50 cents for adults and a quarter for kids,” Oberleitner said. “It had the cheapest popcorn in town, a dime. Everybody else’s was 15 cents.” David Victor – who had purchased the Nixon and renamed it for himself – ran the theater from about 1930 to 1947. During that time, he also was running movies at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. When the Victor finally went dark in the early 1960s, downtown New Castle suddenly was a little less bright as well. “It had a three-sided marquee with hundreds of tiny bulbs,” Oberleitner recalled. “It was a beautiful nighttime feature on New Castle’s main shopping street.” (Tomorrow: Get your tickets for a visit to the State Theater)

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Audrey Przybylski
Audrey Przybylski on May 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Movie Memories, Part 2: Monsters, cowboys and ultimately, sex, were staples at State Theater Dan Irwin 05/21/2013 11:03 AM

For Richard Kalata, soda pop was something to consider before he got to the movies, not after. “In the late ’40s, I lived within walking distance of the State Theater,” said Kalata, a New Jersey resident and New Castle native who also spent some time as a projectionist at some of the city’s now-defunct movie houses. “The admission price was 25 cents for adults and 12 cents for children. To see a movie I had to find two large Golden Age pop bottles and one small pop bottle. “The two big ones were worth a nickel each, and the smaller one was two cents. I would take them to a store, collect the 12 cents deposit and go to the movies.” The State Theater opened around 1930 on Long Avenue, supplanting the nearby Strand, an early nickelodeon. Both were owned by the Baltimore family. Since 1987, it’s been home to the New Castle Playhouse. Before that, though, it was a second home for Dave Kalata. “Growing up, the State Theater was practically in my back yard,” said Kalata, who is Richard’s cousin. “I have to say that I probably spent a third of my time at home, a third of my time outside and a third of my time in the movie theater. “A lot of kids in the neighborhood spent a lot of time at the State Theater, because they changed films at least twice a week. It was such a golden time with all those monster movies and cowboy movies, we were there a couple times a week.” Dave Kalata, though, didn’t always see every minute of the monster flicks. “I tell you, they scared a lot of people,” he said. “There’d be a group of us, five or six guys, who would go in together and sit all in one row. I’d be looking at the movie thinking something scary’s going to happen, and it’d be ‘Oops, I gotta go to the bathroom’ or go get a drink of water or go buy some candy. ” He then would hide out in the lobby or behind the low wall at the rear of the auditorium until he was brave enough to sneak a peek to see if the frightening moment had past. “Then I’d go back and say, ‘What happened?’ and they’d tell me, and I’d say, “Geez, I shoulda stayed to watch that.’ But it just scared me.” Also daunting to the youngsters were the candy prices at the State’s concession stand. Kalata & Co. got around that, though, by making their first stop at Joe’s Smoke Shop just up the street. The store was owned by Joe Slamon, father of renowned cancer researcher Dr. Dennis Slamon. “It was cheaper there,” Dave Kalata said of the sweets. “We’d buy our candy, and then hide it so no one would see us bringing it in.” Eventually, Dave Kalata became such a fixture at the State that manager John Hammet, who also managed the Hi-Lander, would ask for his help when he had to work on the North Hill instead of the South Side. “Since I lived just around the corner, if there were any emergencies, he would call me and I would go down there,” Kalata said. “I became almost like an assistant manager. I opened up the theater, I gave the box office people their money, I counted the money after the end of the night, inventoried the candy.” For a while, the 17-year-old Kalata was even dispatched to the film exchange in Pittsburgh to select movies to show at the State. “I must have had the magic touch because a lot of them that I had picked did pretty well,” he said. “Some of these never really played at the Hi-Lander, maybe at the drive-ins as a second feature, but if you missed them there, they never came back. Like ‘The Patch of Blue,’ ‘Flight of the Phoenix,’ ‘In Like Flint’ — movies like that, more adventure-type, action films that were only there over a weekend or maybe just a week, but they were busy.” That was pretty much the way of the State, according to Jack Oberleitner, a New Castle native and owner of a cinema consulting firm, Oberleitner & Associates. It “was almost always a second-run house with occasional foreign language specials (because of the mix of immigrants inhabiting the surrounding South Side neighborhoods),” he said. “Its last incarnation was, briefly, as an triple-X house before closing as a film theater.” (Tomorrow: A world premier with Bill Cardille and other Hi-Lander memories)

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Audrey Przybylski
Audrey Przybylski on May 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Movie Memories, Part 3: The Hi-Lander and Cinema theaters were the last two New Castle movie houses to go darkDan Irwin 05/22/2013 3:52 AM

Although the downtown once was dotted with movie theaters, one of the last to close was well up the North Hill. The 750-seat Hi-Lander opened in 1952, the result of a joint effort by two pairs of area drive-in owners: Al Tate and John Wincek (Highway 51 near Darlington, and John Favorite and Joe Glorioso (Blue Sky near Zelienople). It was one of just three New Castle theaters — the others being the Penn and the Regent — equipped to project 3D movies, according to Richard Kalata, a New Castle native and former local projectionist now living in New Jersey. “It was very modern for the time, with a 12-seat smoke room on the left side of the projection room and a baby cry room on the right side,” recalled Kalata, who also worked projection rooms at the Hi-Lander and various other local theaters. “The theater was the only local one to have a curtain,” Kalata said, as well as “a giant, panoramic screen and four-track magnetic stereo sound with surround.” However, he noted, the latter was not often used “because of extra rental cost and availability of magnetic prints.” Kalata recalled movie star Aldo Ray visiting the Hi-Lander in 1955 to promote one of his films, as well as a “giant trailer” being placed outside the theater as a tie-in with the 1953 Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz comedy “The Long Long Trailer.” Meanwhile, Kalata’s cousin, Dave — also a former projectionist — recalled a rather obscure “world premiere” that took place at the Hi-Lander on May 10, 1967. The film was called “Conception 3,” and one of its stars was a Bia Corisss. Neither the movie nor the star pops up in almost any Internet search you care to try. The movie’s male lead, Edson Stroll, can be found in connection with other roles he inhabited — such as crewman Virgil Edwards on TV’s “McHale’s Navy” and Prince Charming in the film “Snow White and the Three Stooges” — but not linked to anything by the name of “Conception 3.” Nonetheless, the event featured appearances by WIIC (now WPXI) personalities Bill Cardille and By Williams, as well as Corisss herself. “The basis (of the film) was a young Amish man leaves to see what the real world was like and he gets into a lot of trouble,” recalled Dave Kalata, who was working as a Hi-Lander usher and candy seller at the time. “They only ran it one time, and I don’t think it ever was released, and I’ve never seen anything on it.” North Hill resident Leo Mickey, the Hi-Lander’s final manager, said that as the theater approached its end, some thought was given to converting it to a multi-screen cineplex, but those plans were scrapped when it was discovered that the cost would have been prohibitive. Today, the velvety red seats — which slid back when you sat down — remain in the Hi-Lander’s dark, musty auditorium, looked down upon by a tattered screen and twinkles of light squeezing through rusting double doors and a perforated rear wall. The concession stand — including the popcorn machine — is still in place, and 1950s-era signs remain to mark the former restrooms and the cry room. On what were once exterior walls flanking the now-missing box office, movie posters in glass wall cases still exhort nonexistent customers to consider buying boxes of candy or Cinemette Theaters gift certificates.

THE CINEMA No such trappings remain of the Cinema, the East Washington Street theater that showed its first feature in 1968, closed in the late 1980s and was razed in 2007 — 100 years after the building first opened as The Dome in the silent film era. The theater changed several times after that, to the Paramount in the 1940s, then to the Vogue and New Vogue in the ’50s and ’60s, when it and the nearby Victor were run by the Fry family, according to New Castle native and cinema consulting firm owner Jack Oberleitner. Both theaters, Oberleitner said, were run “as 50 cent admission, double-feature, sub-runs, and both were closed in the early 1960s.” The Vogue, though, got one last chance to shine when the Penn Theater closed in 1968. “To maintain a first-run presence in New Castle after the well-known Penn Theater was closed, Associated Theaters of Pittsburgh bought and hastily remodeled the Vogue, once again changing simply to the Cinema,” said Oberleitner, owner of the cinema consulting firm Oberleitner & Associaties. “They completely gutted the old Vogue Theater and did a nice job of renovating a place that was pretty run down. The Vogue had the smallest screen in the city of New Castle — only seven feet wide. When they put in the Cinema, they put in a big screen.” The Dome also had lacked restrooms, which eventually were installed behind the screen. At the Cinema, though, patrons had to climb a flight of steps to the second floor, where the facilities were located across from the projection room. The Cinema held its grand opening Nov. 22, 1968, with the New Castle premier of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” According to an ad that day in the New Castle News, the theater featured “foam rubber seats spaced for adequate leg room … (the) last word in year round gas air conditioning and heating … Rich blue and green carpeting,” which was “wall to wall” and even “under the seats” … “inside modern box office (the Vogue’s box office had been outside the main doors)” … and “attractive restrooms” including a “comfortable ladies lounge (with) full-length mirror and dressing table.”

Audrey Przybylski
Audrey Przybylski on May 25, 2013 at 8:13 am

Movie Memories, Part 4: Penn Theater remembered for opulence, Leo Mickey’s weekend kiddie showsDan Irwin 05/23/2013 2:24 PM

When today’s New Castle residents recall the city’s former movie theaters, the Penn may be the most fondly remembered. Built in the 1920s, the Penn “was the first one (downtown) to be built as a full-fledged, deluxe theater,” said Jack Oberleitner, a New Castle native and owner of a cinema consulting firm that bears his name. Many of its predecessors and contemporaries had opened as nickelodeons in converted storerooms, but “pretty much until the time it was torn down, the Penn was considered the leading, first-run theater in New Castle. If there was a big movie coming to town, you just automatically assumed it would be at the Penn. “It was just a neat place to go. It had the nicest seats. It had what we used to call the balcony, but it was actually a stadium section in the back, and that was a wonderful place to go on dates. You tried to get the person you were dating to sit as close as possible to the projection booth, all the way in the back.” Oberleitner recalled a “stylish red and gold, Art Deco style interior … enhanced by six large Tiffany-style chandeliers on the auditorium ceiling.” “Built as a film theater without a true stage,” he said, “the proscenium arch and red velvet drape were covered by a wall-to-wall CinemaScope screen in the early 1950s. Sadly, the Penn was never wired for stereo sound.” Richard Kalata spent some time as a projectionist at the Penn, where his father, George, had held the job from 1929 until the 1,100-seat theater closed for good in 1968. “The Penn closed for a summer in the early 1950s because of competition from drive-in theaters, television and the lack of air conditioning,” Kalata recalled. “The theater was completely remodeled with new seats and air conditioning. “It remained the ‘Showplace of New Castle’ mainly because of the outstanding leadership of Leo Mickey.” Mickey, who still lives on the North Hill, did stints at various times managing the Penn, the Hi-Lander, the State, the Cinema and later, the Westgate Cinemas. He and the Penn may be best remembered for their Saturday morning kiddie shows, which Oberleitner described as “17 cartoons and some schlocky feature like ‘Radar Men from the Moon.’ ” “But the neat part,” he went on, “was that in between, Mr. Mickey – as everybody called him – would go up on the little tiny stage and play games with the kids. He had prizes he had gotten from local merchants, and he filled the theater up every single time they had a matinee like this. “That was a big deal; that was a fixture in New Castle. Probably anyone who is somewhere between 50 and 80 now has very fond memories of the kiddie shows at the Penn.” The Penn was located on North Mercer Street, where Huntington Bank’s drive-thru now is located. Though it was outlived by the Cinema, the Penn’s demise may have best captured the emotions of a town losing its longtime entertainment houses, one by one. “The day the wrecking ball hit the side of the Penn Theater a large crowd assembled to watch,” Oberleitner wrote at cinematreasures.0rg. “Repeatedly, the ball struck the wall with no obvious result. The crowd cheered each time until, after many tries, the ball finally broke through the wall of the venerable, old showplace and the crowd became silent, a tear in many eyes. “A part of their personal history was soon to be gone to make way for a bank drive-up kiosk.” (Tomorrow: Thumbnails of other former local theaters)

OTHER MEMORABLE THEATERS

Here are some other former local theaters that people alive today may remember visiting: •The Regent – Opened as the Park around the turn of the 20th century just off The Diamond, in the building adjacent to the one that now houses Subway. Originally a nickelodeon, it was remodeled around 1920 and rechristened the Regent. Jack Oberleitner called it “a simple yet comfortable theater … home to first-run B movies and double features from the likes of such studios as Monogram, Astor and Republic. It was ‘the’ place for serials, action and western films. Every John Wayne movie made showed their originally.’ The Regent, according to its New Castle News ad of Jan. 7, 1929, unveiled that night the first “talkie” ever shown in New Castle. The theater reported closed in 1955. •The Crescent –The theater at the corner of Liberty Street and Madison Avenue in Mahoningtown opened in 1915, according to cinematreasures.com. Following a spring 1940 fire, it was remodeled and given a streamlined, modern-style makeover. Oberleitner calls it “a pretty little theater; a real gem. Décor-wise, it was nicer than a lot of the other theaters in town. A classic feature was the illuminated glass block wall that separated the auditorium from the tiny lobby.” The last film at the Crescent was shown in 1959, although the New Castle Playhouse used it for a time in the 1960s. It was razed in 1975. •Super Castle and Skyline drive-ins – The Super Castle, with a reported capacity for 800 cars, was located about where Walmart is now in Union Township. Its screen was built to resemble a castle wall. It closed in the late 1970s. The smaller Skyline (400 cars) was located not much more than a stone’s throw west, just off 224 behind the Parkstown Restaurant and Motel. Richard Kalata recalled that when the Skyline opened, “in-car speakers had not arrived. As a result, they had giant speakers located around the lot … did the job, but drove the neighbors nuts.” Oberleitner noted that “the screen tower was on a direct sight line with the New Castle Airport a couple miles away.” The revolving searchlight at the airport “was a challenge while watching the movies — if you were actually watching the movies,” he said. Kalata noted that both drive-ins would have “dusk to dawn” shows that often went past sunrise before the final feature had ended. One Super Castle ad for such a show promised four features and three cartoons, followed by free coffee and doughnuts.

Audrey Przybylski
Audrey Przybylski on May 25, 2013 at 8:15 am

Movie Memories, Part 5: Once upon a time, the city was filled with nickelodeons Dan Irwin 05/24/2013 9:12 AM

At least three of New Castle’s earliest movie theaters were ravaged by fire. But if you were a patron in those days, smoke might not have been the only smell to send you running into the streets. A fog of perfume might have done the trick as well. During the first couple decades of the 20th century, the city’s movie theaters were more aptly termed “nickelodeons.” “People would come in, and the entire program would only last about 20 minutes,” explained Jack Oberleitner, a New Castle native and owner of Oberleitner & Associates, a cinema consulting firm. “So people would come in, pay a nickel – maybe on Saturday night it went up to a dime – and they would watch anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes of film. “Then management would do whatever they could to get the people out.” Why? So they could sell the seats again for the next show. “At the Cascade (the Mill Street theater that was the Warner Brothers’ first), they had Jack Warner, who was the youngest, go up front and start to sing – which he couldn’t do,” Oberleitner said. “In The Dome (on East Washington Street), the manager would start spraying perfume. At the Nixon (later the Victor, also in East Washington), they were renowned for telling the projectionist to start speeding up the film so people would get disgusted and walk out. Then they could sell more nickel tickets.”

EARLY SHOWS While longtime New Castle residents no doubt have pleasant memories of such former downtown theaters as the Penn, the Victor or the Vogue, few, if any, remain to recall the heyday of early 1900s movie houses like the Cascade, the Coliseum, the Opera House or the Dome. Enter Jack Oberleitner. Oberleitner’s been in the movie business since 1959, when he took his first job as an usher in the now-defunct Victor Theater, which his father managed. Though he’ll soon be retiring from his consulting firm, he’s joined the board of directors of a group attempting to recreate the Warner Brothers’ theater, even making a $100,000 donation to the effort. But it was that first job at the Victor that enabled Oberleitner to begin acquiring a wealth of knowledge about New Castle movie theaters that had come and gone before most of today’s residents were born. “A lot of the people who owned and managed the theaters were people that (my father) knew, so it was almost a social event whenever we would go to a movie,” Oberleitner said. “It was obligatory at that time that you always had to stop and talk with the manager, compare notes and ‘How’s business?’ and, of course, business was always lousy. You could have a full house and they’d still say it was lousy. “In the late ’50s, there were still a lot of old projectionists and stage hands that had been around in the glory days of the ’20s and ’30s. And I routinely used to go to them and pick their brains about what it was like to work at the Coliseum Theater, or the Opera House or the Capitol Theater, which were pretty big deals at one point.” Indeed, Oberleitner recalled, in the days before Internet, television and even radio, movies themselves were a sensation. “Almost every Saturday there was a parade of people that used to start at The Diamond and walk up one side of Washington Street and visit all the theaters, going up to the Vogue Theater looking at the pictures of the posters and such,” he said. “At any given time, there were probably a couple thousand people making the circuit.”

ORIGINAL SCREEN SCENE Given that the Cascade is part of the foundation of the Warner Brothers empire — and that efforts to restore it have been afloat for some time now — it undoubtedly is the most talked-about theater that none of those having the conversation ever saw. The Warners actually began showing movies in the back room of a funeral parlor further along East Washington Street. At various points it was called the Bijou and the Pioneer. When other nickelodeons began to open along East Washington Street, the Warners opened the Cascade Movie Palace on Mill Street in 1907, a few doors down from the funeral home. The theater lasted a few years before the Warners moved on to other interests. However, Oberleitner notes, New Castle did have other theaters operating at the same time, such as the Acme — which, ironically, was right next door to the Warner Brothers. Also nearby were the Coliseum, the Opera House and others. “The Acme was like a penny arcade that had a little room to show seven-, eight-, nine-minute long featurettes,” Oberleitner said. “The Coliseum was more or less across the street on Mill Street. It actually had a couple thousand seats. It was built like an indoor arena, thereby the name. “It was an open floor area that had bleacher-style seats. They put on a circus, they put on polo matches, vaudeville acts, they showed movies – anything they could get to draw in a crowd. At one point, they even flooded the place and had water polo.” One block west on South Mercer Street, the Opera House opened circa 1900 in a remodeled, second-floor public meeting room. A wooden structure, it eventually was damaged by fire, Oberleitner said, after which a full-fledged movie palace – The Capitol – opened on the same site in the early 1920s. It boasted between 1,200 and 1,500 seats, Oberleitner said, and presented a combination of films and vaudeville acts. The latter included an appearance by a then-relative unknown by the name of Bob Hope. “It was a really lavish theater, very pretty – sort of a smaller version of The Cathedral,” Oberleitner said of the Capitol, which like the Opera House, closed for good following a devastating blaze. “And an interesting bit of trivia,” Oberleitner notes, “was that the movie they were advertising as ‘coming next’ on their marquee was ‘Fireman Save My Child.’ ” Oberleitner believes that the Moravia (1903 to 1906) may have been New Castle’s first theater. “(It) was one of many makeshift nickelodeons that sprang up everywhere around the turn of the century,” he said. “As told to me by a pioneer projectionist, the Moravia Theatre was constructed out of sheet metal which made the building very vulnerable to both heat and cold. The auditorium consisted of a single crank projector and a screen of sorts on the opposite wall. “Barely more than a sideshow attraction, the projectionist would shuffle through a few travelogues or novelty reels, each lasting five to seven minutes.”

NAME CHANGES Some other early New Castle theaters eventually morphed into entities that some folks today may still remember. The Park, for instance, opened on East Washington Street near The Diamond around the turn of the 20th century, “a small, live theater with about 500 seats,” Oberleitner said. It was remodeled and renamed The Regent in the mid- to late 1920s, according to cinematreasures.org, and showed mostly “B westerns and pictures by companies like Republic and Monogram,” Oberleitner said. At the other end of East Washington was The Dome, built in 1907. It transformed multiple times, becoming the Paramount in the 1940s, the Vogue in the 1950s and the New Vogue in the 1960s. It was then closed for several years before it was remodeled and reopened in 1968 as The Cinema. Other early movie theaters about which little information exists include The Baltimore Strand, on Long Avenue; The Theatorium at 114 E. Washington; The Star at 120 E. Washington; and Dreamland, 15 S. Mill St. (Email: )

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on July 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

The Cascade Picture Palace should have it’s description changed to show 2 screens instead of one with a total seating capacity of 200. As noted above, the original Warner Brothers theatre had a nickelodeon side, with 100 seats, bare-bones decor and folding chairs. The “Gentry” side, also with 100 seats, cost a quarter and sported plush seats and a fancy decor for “more sophisticated patrons.” In addition to being the WB first theatre, one might speculate if this was not also the world’s first twin theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Jack, whether the Cascade has a shot at having been the first twin theater or not depends on now early in 1907 it opened. The Twin Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, opened in February, 1907. It’s the earliest two-screen house I’ve come across so far, but there might have been earlier ones. As many early movie theaters were located in converted store buildings, and the larger of those were often divided by supporting columns, the idea of partitioning the space into two rooms could have occurred to a number of theater operators.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on July 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Thanks Joe! The Cascade opened on February 2nd, 1907. So, the Cascade and Twin in Atlanta apparently share the “official” honors. It’s amazing how many wonderful tidbits of theatre history are out there.

Jack Oberleitner
Jack Oberleitner on July 9, 2013 at 6:40 pm

The Warnere Film Center / Cascade Picture Palace Theatre is now on Facebook and Twitter in addition to the website: www.warnerfilmcenter.org. Everyone is invited to check out and share these links with other cinema fans.

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