NEW CASTLE —
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.
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.