The Boyertown State Theatre celebrates its 108th birthday. This historic gathering place ushers in new decade with fond remembrances of generations past.
In 1912, George W. Unger, O.W. Sabold, Newton Erb, and J. William Shaeffer started the Boyertown Amusement Company, and purchased a lot on the corner of North Reading Ave. and 5th St. for their 400-seat theatre they called “The Lyric.”
Today we know the same building as The State Theatre, and although it has passed through the hands of various owners with somewhat differing visions over the decades, there are few theatres like The State Theatre that have seen continual use for over a century, and even fewer who are as beloved by the community around it.
The theatre’s original founders could not have imagined the significance The State Theatre has had on Boyertown, and the generations of families who have enjoyed it and continue to enjoy it 108 years after its doors first opened.
Designed by renowned theatre architect David Supowitz of Philadelphia, The Lyric quickly became an anchor for the community of Boyertown. From silent movies with piano accompaniments, public meetings, graduation ceremonies, and post prom activities, The Lyric was the perfect platform for bringing the townspeople together and share important milestones.
In 1934, George H. Kline purchased the theatre and added a marquee and commissioned the E. Greco Co. of Philadelphia to paint the murals which can be seen running along the theatre’s side walls, both of which pay homage to Boyertown’s agricultural and Dutch heritage.
For over two decades Kline owned and operated the theatre, along with his son Jacque, until 1956 when he sold it to the Clark Theatre Company. Even after it was sold out of their family, Jacque dutifully managed the building for the better part of 40 years. Both of Jacque's sons, Jacque and Dennis, also worked diligently at running movies and maintaining the theatre over the years. For the Kline's, The State Theatre was more than just a theatre, and keeping the building in operation has been an integral part of their family’s legacy. Dennis’s first kiss with his wife Nancy took place there (they’ve now been married 51 years), and their daughter Adriane began working there in 1989 selling concessions.
Today she serves as House Manager, as she did from 1996 to 1999. Friends and family threw a surprise baby shower for Adriane at The State Theatre when she was pregnant with her son Ian, who today also sells concessions and serve as a bartender; making him the fifth generation of the Kline Family to work within the theatre. Adriane fondly recalls seeing the first Star Wars film at The State Theatre in 1977, and while working at the theatre during the recent release of The Rise of Skywalker, she learned her son Ian was accepted into an internship program at NASA.
In 1987, Robert W. Ritner came aboard as the theatre’s new owner, placing a special emphasis on restoring and preserving the historical significance of the Boyertown institution, while at the same time adding contemporary touches such as an updated projection system, new carpets, and introducing a $1.00 ticket fee. KDR Properties became the new owners in 2008, and shut the theatre down in 2015.
Thanks to Steve Maguire and The Maguire Family Trust, the theatre was reopened in 2016 with new carpets, electrical, air and heating systems, paint, and lighting. Although the theatre is today owned by The Maguire Family Trust, it is leased to The State Theatre Preservation Society for $1 per year for the next 20 years. Not long after assuming responsibility for running the theatre, the society raised $100,000 to purchase and install a new digital projector and surround sound system.
Throughout the decades, the Boyertown community has never failed to rally around The State Theatre when it is in need of help, and it continues to serve as an important gathering place for the townspeople, no matter what the occasion might be.
Dennis recalls a favorite story about the theatre that his father used to tell: one Valentine’s Day in knee-deep snow, Jacque walked from his home on Berks Street to open the theatre, clear the snow and give people a chance at coming in. He nearly turned back at one point, convinced no one besides himself would suffer the weather and go out to the theatre just to see a movie. He was quite surprised by the standing-room only attendance for that evening's show.
For over a hundred years, the residents of Boyertown have enjoyed seeing their favorite movies and making fond memories at The State Theatre, and those who continue to carry on its legacy are determined to make sure future generations will be able to enjoy the same experiences as well.
Since 1912, the historic State Theatre, located at 61 N. Reading Ave., has served as a bastion of cultural enrichment for Boyertown and the surrounding region. Today, the facility is operated by The State Theatre Preservation Society, a non-profit community dedicated to preserving one of Pennsylvania’s most important cultural sites, and ensuring future generations will have continued access to film, performing arts, and arts education.
Learn more about The State Theatre Preservation Society at the group’s official website here: http://www.statetheatrepreservation.com/