147 N. Main Street,
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Previously operated by: Altoona Publix Theaters Inc.
Architects: James E. Casale
Previous Names: Penn Theatre
The Penn Theatre opened in 1938. The Penn Cinemas closed in May, 2001ending the long reign of Main Street’s last picture palace. The theatre’s owners are asking $195,000 for the aging building. The theatre is owned by Theater Management, a Florida-based company that does not see downtown theatres as a current part of its business.
Despite a $250,000 renovation, the Penn Cinemas has not turned enough profit to satisfy the company, which claims that the theatre has been for sale since work was completed on the renovation in 1997.
Interestingly, the company says the only reason the Penn Cinemas has stayed open this long is because it is a favorite of the founder of Theater Management, Chester DeMarsh, who bought the theatre in 1965.
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Recent comments (view all 39 comments)
reelmanager: Thanks so much for this Butler Theatre information as I’m still looking to see a photo(s)! And how does one locate the Butler Eagle online archive link?
www.butlereagle.com in list click “archives” or perhaps “contact us” for additional help from staff. The downtown theatres were pictured in an article about the history of the areas' entertainment, parks, and leisure. Can’t remember the date but is within the last 10 years.
I am new to this website but wanted to share what I do know. Casale designed at least one other U.S. atmospheric theater—the glorious Polk Theatre in Lakeland, FL (www.polktheatre.org) It is central FL—between Tampa and Orlando. It opened on Dec. 22, 1928 and I am happy to report it is still going strong. I have just returned and may be going again in mid-January. I am happy to answer questions, etc. As soon as I have time, I will figure out how to post a photo and info. on it. Post here a friendly reminder and I promise to act when I can.
maria62: I couldn’t figure out the connection with the Polk to the Penn Cinema in Butler PA until I saw the name CASALE. The theatre in Butler that most interests me is the former Butler Theatre which was an Eberson atmopheric.
just saw “moon of the wolf” last night at the penn cinema- in the small screening room or ‘piggy back’ theatre
i’m not so sure someone’s information on the PNC bank is correct- that building has been there since at least the 1930’s- hardly an era of ‘urban renewal’
Architorture: Are you saying that the Butler Theatre is still standing? If so, please post on the Butler Theatre any information you have. I know there was some confusion at one time as to the Penn Cinema and the Butler Theatre. I recall speaking to someone connected with the Penn Cinema and thought I recall being told that the Butler had been torn down. If this is incorrect information, I welcome the correction.
i’m certain they are different theatres- penn cinema is still up and operational…
i just don’t think that the current PNC bank sits on the same site as the butler theatre…by looking at the site my best guess is that the butler theatre which is listed with a east jefferson address would have been located behind the PNC bank. today there is a drive thru teller area there- but i doubt the butler theatre was torn down to fulfill that specific purpose
i’m going for a thorough building tour on march 30th. last weekend i spoke with some people on the board and expressed interest in volunteering some time and expertise…
i might get a chance to actually do some design work at this building
From Boxoffice magazine, January 1938:
BUTLER, Pa.-Work progresses satisfactorily on the new 1,200-seat theater here for the Pennler Theater Corp. with the roof deck occasioning special attention this week. The theater is owned by Elias Ritts, Butler County National Bank, with the Pennler corporation as lessee.
Building is 60x181 feet, of brick and stone trim, with reinforced concrete floors. There will be two stores on the first floor adjoining the theater entrance. Theater offices will occupy the secoond floor. James E. Casale of New York is the architect and C.C. Miller and C.T. Dumbaugh of Butler are the general contractors. Pennler Theater Corp. operates the Capitol here.
The Penn Theater building was condemned by the city of Butler in October 2022. A month later the building was sold and the new owner “envisions it serving as a multi-purpose venue in downtown” with work expected over the winter of 2022-23.