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June 27, 2014

Historical marker returned to theater site

NEW CASTLE — Busloads of theater aficionados crowded South Mill Street Thursday to celebrate the rededication of the Warner brothers theater historical marker.

It was a show that would have made the brothers proud.

Jerry Kern, president of the Warner Film Center, presided, and was presented with a check by Lawrence County Commissioner Robert Del Signore.

The $23,353 from the county matched, as the commissioners had promised, the amount raised for the theater project at the online Kickstarter website. The campaign exceeded its $22,000 goal.

President Paul Lynch and board member Bob Waddington from the Lawrence County Historical Society presented Audrey Przybylski, representing the film group, with one of the original chairs used in the first Warner theater.

Its existence had not been known until just weeks ago when volunteer historical society researcher Betty DiRisio discovered that the historical society had it, Przybylski said.

The chair was one of those that the Warner brothers had borrowed from a local funeral home for film showings because they could not afford their own.

DiRisio also recently discovered that funeral home’s name — Offutt Funeral Home, which formerly was at 211 N. Mercer St.

Comments also were delivered by Richard Fosbrink, executive director of the Theatre Historical Society of America and a western Pennsylvania native.

Three busloads containing members of the theater group had been touring the Pittsburgh area and decided to attend the dedication when they found about it.

Andy Masich, president and chief executive officer of the Senator John Heinz History Center and chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, did the honors, pulling the cloth cover from the marker. He was assisted by Joe Magno, an area native who works in the film industry.

The Marine Corps Detachment Number 788 Color Guard and bagpiper Gary Hassan presented the national anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn before the ceremony.

The marker had been taken down when the city renovated the downtown.

It has been in storage, awaiting return to its original site outside the theater.

It is one of more than 2,000 such markers pinpointing the state’s historical people, places, events and innovations.

An evening cash mob, renamed Spark Tours, was scheduled for Thursday night in conjunction with the unveiling of the marker.

According to Larry Corvi, executive director of New Visions for Lawrence County, Spark Tours will help drive new business downtown and draw attention to unique stores already there.

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