New Castle News

July 1, 2013

Movie Memories Week: ‘Monster’ founder ran New Wilmington theater

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Across America, at one time almost every small town had a movie theater.

New Wilmington was no exception.

And the man who once helped run Wilmington Theatre went on to become a multi-millionaire by founding, one of the leading job recruitment sites.

Andrew J. McKelvey, died in 2008 at age 74. He was fraternity brothers with Wendell Wagner and Walter Flamino while all three attended Westminster College in the 1950s.

Flamino said McKelvey sold tickets, made popcorn and ran the projectors — all by himself.

When the drive-ins would close for the winter, McKelvey rented the wide screen equipment from them for the Wilmington Theatre, Flamino recalled.

 “By doing this, it enabled him to pay his tuition at Westminster College.”

After graduating from Westminster and serving in the Army, McKelvey moved to Australia and started a music jukebox business. In 1963, he got a job as an account manager at a Madison ad agency and went on to create the nation’s largest yellow pages advertising agency in 1967.

His personal wealth allowed him to become an active philanthropist, setting up the McKelvey Foundation to provide college scholarships.

Although he was two years older, Wagner — New Wilmington’s mayor — said he and McKelvey were very close and stayed friends.

The big marquee has long since been removed but the memories stay.

Wagner recalls watching movies at the theater as a youngster.

“On hot summer nights, with no air conditioning, it was the place to go.”

The theater was housed in a building on Market Street and held its grand opening on Nov. 7, 1941.

The film shown was “Lady Be Good” starring Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Robert Young, Lionel Barrymore and Red Skelton.

Susan Fisher, a New Wilmington resident, verified that her uncle, Kalman Erdeky, owned the theater but sold it in 1950. Her father, Ernest Erdeky, was the manager.

From information she gathered, Fisher said movies were shown every day except Sunday. Adult tickets were 30 cents and children’s were 11 cents.

The theater seated about 300, according to the material she obtained.

Bill McLaughry, a New Wilmington native now living in Denver, attended that grand opening.

“I talked Dad into letting me go.” McLaughry recalled. “What would I talk about the next day if I hadn’t seen it?”

It’s not certain exactly when the theater stopped showing films, but a history of New Wilmington states it struggled into the 1970s and then finally closed.

It later was revamped for stage presentations by members of the New Castle Playhouse. At that point, the old New Wilmington theater became the Globe Theatre and enjoyed a successful run.

McLaughry was in several presentations including “6 Rms Riv Vue” and “Enter Laughing.”

“We saw ‘Fiddler’ there —incredible; so many actors on such a tiny stage.”