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April 22, 2013

Former resident donates $100,000 to Warner project

NEW CASTLE — The Warner Film Center has project received a $100,000 boost from a New Castle native with local theatrical ties.

Jack Oberleitner, his wife, Marian, and business associate Keith Staffan made the donation from their shared charitable trust. The Oberleitners live in Centerville, Ohio, while Staffan is a resident of Port St. Lucie, Fla.

“We have always thought New Castle had a great deal to be proud of,” Oberleitner said. “My father, the late New Castle Fire Chief John L. Oberleitner, and his family loved this community. From a very early age, I was made aware of many of the great accomplishments of my hometown, including the building of the first Warner Brothers theater, the Cascade Picture Palace. This venture led to the creation of an entertainment empire. And it all started here in New Castle.

“We hope the Warner Film Center will be around for years as a lasting tribute to everyone who made New Castle what it was and can be again. The project is a powerful stimulus to the rebirth of downtown New Castle and we are proud to be a part of it.”

Oberleitner, a 1961 graduate of New Castle High School, has studied in the U.S. and abroad. His father once managed the Victor Theater on East Washington Street in the early 1930s, and Oberleitner’s first job was as an usher in that movie house. He also worked a brief stint as the manager of the Hi-Lander Theater on Highland Avenue.

Eventually, Oberleitner fulfilled his dream of owning a theater by purchasing and restoring the old Capitol Theater in Milton, Pa. That lone theater grew into a a chain of 50 cinemas over eight years.

Ultimately, Oberleitner, 69, founded Oberleitner Associates, a business and theatrical consulting firm, in 1979. He plans to retire from that company in August.

A Vietnam era veteran, Oberleitner also is the author of several books for young readers, and past host of an NPR radio series, “Footlight Parade.”  

Staffan, a life-long government official, now enjoys semi-retirement designing specialized home décor and traveling the world.

“We have been working for many years to bring this project to reality,” said Jerry Kern, a New Castle resident and president of the nonprofit Warner Film Center. “This contribution helps bring this long-envisioned dream to reality.”

Oberleitner hopes other businesses will join him in helping to recreate a piece of local history.

“This was an easy decision for us to make,” commented Oberleitner about his group’s donation. “We would like to now throw a challenge to other people and companies to make their own contributions of time, support and money to help this historic project.”

Kern added: “In commemorating the birth of the movie industry in New Castle, we look forward to assisting and supporting arts groups of all kinds in the New Castle area.”

More information about the project is available at the website of Oberleitner Associates, www.cinema-consuiltant.com, and at the Warner Film Center’s website, www.warnerfilmcenter.org.

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