The Former Hanover Theater is For Sale

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-- History --

     The theater opened on September 21, 1928 as the State Theater.  It was built by a partnership of Appell Amusement Enterprises, a York based company and Fred Bitner who was the manager of the Hanover Opera House and owner of a music store.  The Appell firm operated many theaters in the area and a 1930 listing of movie circuits ("chains") lists 12 theaters under their control.  In addition to the State Theater, they also operated the Majestic in Gettysburg, 7 theaters in York, and 1 each in Dallastown and Reading.   

    The partners purchased the former Wirt Mansion and after if was demolished in November of 1927 work started on a state-of-the-art theater for Hanover.  Indirect lighting, "modern heating and cooling" and lights in the seats along the aisles to help the ushers seat people  were among the innovations included in the theater.  It also featured a 2 manual, 8 rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ which cost over $20,000 back then.   The theater was designed to have both silent movies and stage shows and was built with a fully equipped stage.  The interior decorator for the theater was Arthur Brounet, owner of the famed Brounet Studios of New York.  Brounet often collaborated with Thomas Lamb, one of the most prolific theater architects of the day.  Today, it is believed that there are only three Bounet theaters left.  They are the Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Virginia which is virtually unchanged from the day it opened (Dec 24, 1928),the Hanover (State) Theater which has been repainted, and the Victoria Theater in New York City which has been substantially altered and will be lost to redevelopment in 2013.  The theater opened on September 21, 1928, less than 10 months after construction started.  Sound movie technology was being perfected in 1928 and in November of 1928, less than a month after the theater opened, Mr. Bitner, who also served as the theater's manager, announced that they had signed contracts for "sound and talking equipment".

      One of the storefronts was used as a candy store (there were no concession stands in those days) and in a photo from 1931 the right side store was occupied by Strine's Shoe Store.  There was a small octagonal ticket kiosk located under the marquee.  The ticket booth that we see today was moved to the theater around 1960.  The marquee was slightly smaller than the current one and there was no neon (it was just beginning to be used).  As was the style, there was a massive sign on the roof that spelled out STATE vertically.  The theater showed "first run" movies and was open 6 days a week with 4 shows a day.  Ticket prices varied, but the most expensive ticket was 40 cents. 

    Sometime in the late 30's the original projectors were replaced with "modern" projectors.  Fifty years later when the theater closed, those same two projectors were still in use! 

    In the 40's the Wurlitzer theater pipe organ was removed from the theater.  It was later installed in the Fairview Baptist Church in Alabama.  The organ had a tough life at the Church, falling victim to a botched restoration and later to water damage from a leaking roof (the number one killer of theater organs).  The Church donated the organ to the Birmingham chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society and they have indicated that they would consider giving it back to Hanover.

    There was a renovation (believed to have occurred in 1960) which is the only time that the theater was changed.  The most significant changes were the covering of the walls with sound control padding and fabric, replacement of the original seats with "modern" ones, and the installation of new lighting fixtures.  This is the interior that most people remember.  The ticket booth from the Park Theater  (which was once the Hanover Opera House) was brought to the theater during the renovation.  With its new look, the theater also got a new name - the Hanover Theater.  The theater changed hands several times, and in the 80's it was part of the Fox Brothers movie chain.

    In December of 1986 the Fox Brothers sold the theater to a couple who were antiques dealers from Baltimore.  The buyers bought the theater with the intent of turning it into an upscale antiques co-op.  In the early 90's, the owners leased the theater to an individual who began work on converting the theater into the antiques co-op.  All of the seats were removed as part of a plan to create three level areas where dealers could set up.  A small balcony that would encircle the seating area was also planned.  The stage was to be used as additional sales space and a cafe was planned for the backstage area.  When work started, the fabric was removed from the walls and the original plasterwork was revealed.  It was in very good condition except that the fabric coverings had been attached with small nails and there were thousands of holes to fix.  Work progressed off and on and much of the plaster was repaired and portions of the theater were repainted in an aqua/turquoise color scheme.  The individual leasing the theater ran into a severe financial crisis and was forced to abandon the project. The theater was then used as storage for the owners' antiques businesses.

    In the mid 90's the owners were asked if they would sell the chandelier to the Strand Theater to replace the original.  The owners agreed and after a major fundraising effort to pay for the chandelier and its restoration it was removed from the theater.  In the late 90's the owners moved from Baltimore to Hanover and began to operate their antiques businesses from the theater and the storefronts.  In the early 2000's, the roof over the second lobby area began leaking.  Despite a number of repairs, the leak persisted and currently 35% of the ceiling in the second lobby has been destroyed and some of the decorative plasterwork has been damaged. 

    In October of 2007 the building was sold to a "holding company" which was created to hold the building until an out of state preservation group could purchase the building and restore it.  The former owners had used the theater as a warehouse and it was full of antiques.  It took them over four months to empty the theater and in mid February of 2008 the holding company got control of the building and they immediately took steps to prevent further deterioration of the building and made repairs.  The out of state preservation group never followed through on their plans to restore the building and today it is for sale.

 Historic Hanover Theater, LLC  all rights reserved, copyright 2013
Information in this listing has been gathered from reliable sources, but is not guaranteed