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Penn Theater - New Castle PA

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The Penn Theater, owned by the West Penn Photoplay Company, opened for business on North Mercer Street in April 1920. The state-of-the-art theater, with a 2,000 seat auditorium and marble floors, was designed by local architects C. C. and A. L. Thayer with assistance by county engineer Thomas A. Gilkey. Silent movies and stage performances ruled the day initially as the first “talkie” was not shown in this theater until February 1929. A portion of the ground floor was leased out to various businesses over the years, including to the Ellen Kay women’s clothing store, Dr. H. H. Rosenthal’s optometry office, and Jack Gerson’s Jewelry. The building was purchased by the adjacent First National Bank of Lawrence County in late 1967, and the theater went dark for good on May 1, 1968. The bank subsequently renovated the theater and used the space to expand its operations. (1928) Full Size

An advertisement for the 1927 film Wings starring the iconic Clara Bow (“The It Girl”). This film, about the air war during World War I, launched the career of screen legend Gary Cooper and won the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. (Oct 1928) Full Size

February 1940 advertisement for the upcoming showing of Gone With The Wind.

The Penn Theater, located on North Mercer Street, was opened for business in 1920 and was in active service until closed down in 1968. (1935) Full Size


  1. The Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer of November 23, 1975, contained an interview of Cleveland’s famous son Bob Hope, then age 72. In part (Section Four—9), it says:

    Q. How did you get into comedy?

    HOPE: Oh, I found out that comedy was the best, and I could handle it. And just introducing an act in New Castle, Pa.—the manager asked me to go out and introduce the next show—and I did and told a couple of Scotch jokes. I got laughs and I kept padding for the three days. When I finished, I was practically doing a monologue. I was told, “That’s the kind of act you ought to do. That’s what they need today.” So I broke up my dancing act and started doing a single monologue.

    (I corrected a minor error the PD made, putting the close quotation mark at the end of Bob’s answer instead of at the end of his advisor’s comment.— Richard)

    I am guessing that Bob’s comedic start was at the Penn Theater.

  2. I remember that the Penn Theater often had stage performances as well as movies. One visit I’ll never forget was the screen release sometime around the end of July 1965 when the Beatles movie “Help” was released. Our local band was hired to perform, and of course, we opened with the title song “Help”. There were (I think) about 100 or so screaming girls who went wild when we started up. It was just like the Beatlemania seen on the Ed Sullivan show! What an experience! It’s been almost 49 years ago, but I still get the same electric chill up my spine as I did then when I think about it.

  3. Good post. Thanks.

  4. (EDITOR’S NOTE) Bob Hope actually got his start in comedy, so to speak, at the Capitol Theater (old Opera House) in New Castle. He performed there for three nights in late February 1928. Jeff

  5. Had a job there while in high school as an usher.

  6. In the last picture you can see the back end of 41 black Ford, I was an usher at the Penn I parked my 1937 Oldsmobile where the black Ford is parked I always let my windows down part way one night someone threw a pair of brass knuckles in on my front seat, when I showed them to my dad he accused me of being a thug ( he was A State Trooper) I will never forget incident or the parting of the ways to follow, a lot of bad things happened during the war years because folks were frustrated with the war and with food being ration plus gasoline was rationed too I think the frustration lasted for many many years after WWII


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