State Theater opening night

A sold-out crowd of 400 people enjoys “Casablanca” during the opening night of the Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership’s movie series Friday, April 5, 2019, at the State Theater in downtown Johnstown. The theater is in the former Lee Hospital, which is part of Conemaugh Medical Center.

It’s time once again for movie nights in downtown Johnstown.

During all four weekends in March, the Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership will show films in the historic State Theater, located on Main Street. 

The event follows last year’s pilot project in which about 1,500 people total showed up to see nine movies in the theater that had not been used as an entertainment venue in decades.

There will be a dozen movies held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“We feel that this year – with the mix of movies that we came up with, and also adding three more and having 12 total shows – that we’ll have more people attend because the response from last year was very exciting,” DDJP President Melissa Radovanic said. “People were very appreciative that we opened the doors to the theater again, so we expect more people to be here this year.”

The weekends are divided into themes.

• Classic: Casablanca (7 p.m. Friday, March 6), The Maltese Falcon (7 p.m. Saturday, March 7), Citizen Kane (3 p.m. Sunday, March 8)

• Horror: The Exorcist (7 p.m. Friday, March 13), The Blair Witch Project (7 p.m. Saturday, March 14), Night of the Living Dead (3 p.m. Sunday, March 15)

• Musical: 42nd Street (7 p.m. Friday, March 20), Cabaret (7 p.m. Saturday, March 21), Singin’ in the Rain (3 p.m. Sunday, March 22)

• Romance: When Harry Met Sally (7 p.m. Friday, March 27), Sleepless in Seattle (7 p.m. Saturday, March 28), The Way We Were (3 p.m. Sunday, March 29)

“We decided to focus mostly on classic movies this year,” Radovanic said.

The movies are being put on through the efforts of multiple groups, including the city, Johnstown Redevelopment Authority and Conemaugh Health System, which owns the building.

“Conemaugh is glad to partner on the movie series at the State Theater again this year,” Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center CEO Bill Caldwell said. “This project helps to demonstrate what is possible when there is collaboration and investment in a vibrant downtown. I’m personally looking forward to attending. I know quite a few people enjoyed it last year – it was great to see so many people together enjoying arts and culture.”

One of the goals of showing the films is to provide an entertainment option in the central business district that can draw in visitors, who then support nearby bars and restaurants.

“It’s another piece of what is just now an exciting time of restaurants opening downtown and expansions and new places coming soon,” Cambria Regional Chamber President and CEO Amy Bradley said. 

“I just feel like there’s a lot of momentum right now, a lot of excitement. One piece is just building on another. That’s just a great place to be.”

Organizers also hope the movie series can show the viability of the theater to potential owners/operators. A request-for-proposal was recently issued, as the State Theater Re-imagination Project, looking for parties interested in taking over the State.

“If we can reopen this theater in some way, it will appeal to a huge cross section of our community and to people around the region,” Radovanic said. “To have a theater open again in downtown on Main Street would be an ultimate game-changer for the downtown.”

Tickets for the movies can be purchased at http://tinyurl.com/rtxkwoa.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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