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April 4, 2013

Replica of first Warner theater set for downtown

NEW CASTLE — A replica of the first Warner brothers theater is expected to open in February at Cascade Center at the Riverplex

A partnership has been reached between Jerry Kern, president of Warner Film Center, and Dr. Andrew Matta, chief executive officer of Refresh Dental Partners. Refresh, which owns the building at the corner of East Washington and South Mill streets, is donating the space.

Kern said a full-scale replica of the 1907 theater, two modern cinemas and a Warner Bros.-related souvenir shop are expected to open on or about Feb. 2 . That is the day — in 1907 — that brothers Harry, Sam and Albert Warner, who lived in Youngstown, are believed to have opened their first permanent movie theater.

The Warner Film Center at the Cascade Theatre will occupy about 3,000 square feet on the first floor of the 78,000-square-foot Riverplex building. Refresh Dental will occupy the second and third floors.

Kern said the decor and every aspect of the re-created theater will be as exact as possible.

According to historical accounts, the brothers acquired a movie projector and a copy of the 1903 silent film “The Great Train Robbery,” a Western, which they showed at county fairs and rented storefronts throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Deciding they didn’t care for life on the road, the brothers rented a room in the building at 15 S. Mill St., creating their first permanent theater — the Cascade Picture Palace. Three separate theaters ultimately were operated in the building.

“We’re grateful to Dr. Matta and Refresh Dental Partners who have graciously provided a 3,000-square-foot area which will house the restored theater, for no rent, for the next 20 years at least,” Kern said. “This is a tremendously powerful donation to our project.”

Kern said the Warner Film Center will be responsible for utilities and common area maintenance.

“We feel that when completed, the entire Riverplex project will be something that everyone in the area will like,” Matta said. “It will be a real magnet for people and other businesses to begin to look at downtown New Castle as a place to work, dine and relax.”

Kern agreed the completed project “will be upscale and uplifting, and different from anything we have in the area now.”

He said about 200 people are expected to be employed in the complex that will house two restaurants and several retail shops as well as the Cascade replica theater, a Warner Brothers/Cascade Theater memorabilia area and two new, modern cinemas.

In addition to arrangements for the historic Cascade Nickelodeon Theatre replica, Kern said, the non-profit Warner Film Center Corp. has completed negotiations with ES&T Technical Services, a Florida-based firm that will design and equip two ultra-modern, state-of-the-art cinemas.

These theaters, one seating 100 patrons, the other seating 250, will show documentaries as well as classic movies and new independent and foreign films.

“This technology, developed in 2012, will be the most modern movie equipment available,” Kern said. “There will be nothing like this within 50 miles of New Castle.”

However, Kern said, he does not expect first run films will be shown at the complex.

“We will tell the history of the Warner brothers and how their empire began and the history and evolution of movies. But we are not an arm of Warner Bros.,” Kern said. “We will also tell the story of New Castle and what it was like in New Castle in 1907.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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