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State Theatre Recognized As A State College Historic Site

As it approaches the 80th anniversary of its opening, the State Theatre has been recognized as a State College historic site.

Theatre board member emeritus Nadine Kofman spearheaded the effort, which is commemorated with a new plaque on the exterior of the building detailing its history. A State College native, journalist and local historian, Kofman has worked for years with the Penn State Alumni Association and Downtown State College Improvement District to create the plaques recognizing buildings with special local historical significance.

The State Theatre is the 16th borough building to receive the State College Historic Site designation.

“I spent many hours in the basement of the Centre County Library and Historical Museum in order to write the history of the buildings,” Kofman told the Centre County Gazette.

On Oct. 15, 1938, Warner Bros. opened the State Theatre at 130 W. College Ave. as a test market for new films, after just four months of construction at a then-steep cost of $70,000. “The Sisters” starring Errol Flynn and Bette Davis was the film on opening day and adult admission was 30 cents (35 cents after 5 p.m.)

The state of the State, however, declined over the years and in 2001 owner Carmike Cinema closed what was then a two-screen bi-plex.

Before it even closed, however, a group of community members — led by businessman Mike Negra and his wife, Wanda White — had already begun to envision it as a community performing arts center. Owners Sidney and Helen Friedman donated the theatre and a monetary gift to the community for renovations to begin.

Restored to its past glory and now a non-profit community arts venue, the State Theatre opened its doors once again on Dec. 14, 2006 with a performance by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and former Penn State football All-American Mike Reid. 

Since then the State Theatre has become a home for local artists and performance groups, a tour stop for a huge range of national acts, a place for screenings of independent and classic films and broadcasts of world-renowned ballet and a opera, and space for the community.

A dedication ceremony for the historic site recognition was held on Thursday night.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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