Warner Theatre

120 N. High Street,
West Chester, PA 19380

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old Warner Theater, West Chester, PA

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The Warner Theatre in West Chester opened on November 14, 1930 with the movie “The Life of the Party” starring Winnie Lightner and the Warner Bros. child star Davey Lee, billed as ‘The World’s Biggest Little Star’, who made a personal appearance on opening night. It was designed by the firm of Rapp & Rapp in flamboyant Art Deco style. The vertical sign and facade of the West Chester Warner was very similar in appearance to the Rapp’s Warner Theatre (now the Erie Civic Center) in Erie, which opened a year after this theater.

After its movie days ended in the 1970’s, the Warner Theatre was renovated and live entertainment was presented for a few years, until the theater closed in the very early-1980’s. The Warner Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

In June 1986, the West Chester Borough Council decided to allow the demolition of the auditorium, despite the efforts of preservationists to save the theatre, once known as the ‘showcase of Chester County’. Demolition of the auditorium took place in late-1986. The surviving part of the building has been the theatre’s facade and lobby. In December 1986, the West Chester Borough Council voted to allow the owner’s request to demolish the marquee, overruling the denial of the Board of Historic Review. The remaining front section of the former Warner Theatre building became local offices to the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.

In 2011, groundbreaking was held to build a 76 room Warner Hotel, with the theatre’s lobby building to function as the hotel’s lobby. The Warner Hotel opened August 17, 2012.

Contributed by Bryan, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Here is an interior photo from the Irvin Glazer theater collection:
http://tinyurl.com/n55qt5

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 11, 2009 at 4:07 am

Another copyrighted photo?

Ziggy
Ziggy on August 11, 2009 at 7:39 am

I love that photo of the auditorium! What flamboyant decor!

Lost Memory; your photo link from 7/21/07 no longer works. Is there some way you can re-post it?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 11, 2009 at 10:22 am

Sorry ziggy, it looks like the website that was hosting the 1930 photo is gone. But you can click on the link posted on Dec 3, 2006 to see another 1930 photo including a shot of the interior.

KosmoCorrigan
KosmoCorrigan on August 22, 2009 at 11:39 am

I have fond memories of the Warner. I went to my first movie on my own (sans parents) at the Warner to see Disney’s The Fighting Prince of Donegal. Later, in the early 70s, my high school English class was asked to leave in the middle of a special screening of The Lion in Winter which our English teacher had arranged for us.

Penway14
Penway14 on January 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I went to college in West Chester and seem to remember the Warner having a kind of art deco Egyptian motif. It was very impressive, at any rate. Movies were getting more permissive and much steamier when I was in college and I saw A Summer Place and Splendor in the Grass at the Warner. Both were the talk of the campus for days afterwards.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

Groundbreaking August 11, 2011 for the Warner Hotel http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2011/08/11/groundbreaking-for-new-hotel-in-west-chester/

Theater’s lobby building to be lobby for 76 room hotel http://www.thewarnerhotel.com/

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on February 26, 2012 at 6:25 am

Photo of auditorium ceiling http://www.decopix.com/LR_DOA_Gallery-Final/content/West_Chester_Warner_4_NX_large.html

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on February 26, 2012 at 6:35 am

Actually the site has 6 beautiful color photos of the Warner’s interior, auditorium & what appears to be aspects from the lobby http://www.decopix.com/LR_DOA_Gallery-Final/content/West_Chester_Warner_Auditorium_NX_large.html

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