State Theatre

127 W. 3rd Street,
Williamsport, PA 17701

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: ABC Theatres, Paramount Pictures Inc.

Architects: William E. Lehman

Styles: Adam

Previous Names: Keeney's Theatre, Keystone Theatre

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State Theatre

Built on the site of the Lycoming Opera House. Opened in March 28, 1919 as Keeney’s Theatre, with 1,650 seats. It was taken over by new owners in 1927 and renamed Keystone Theatre. A Marr & Colton organ was installed in the Keystone Theatre in 1928. By the early-1940’s the Keystone Theatre was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Frank Walker. The State Theatre was part of ABC Theaters of Pennsylvania, a Scranton-based chain, in the early-1970’s.

It was demolished in 1978.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

kerfr1 on November 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm

If this is the CARLTON THEATRE, demoslished…I used to tap dance there. 1948-1950!!!!!!!!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 27, 2011 at 4:24 am

The State Theatre was on the site of the Lycoming Opera House, a 1600-seat theater built in 1892 and destroyed by fire on May 31, 1915. Here is a pre-fire photo of the Lycoming Opera House, and here is a post-fire photo along with a picture of the stage before the fire.

It’s possible that parts of the opera house auditorium were incorporated into the new theater on the site, which probably opened within a year or two of the fire. Boxoffice of June 6, 1977, ran a brief article about the State Theatre, saying it had closed on March 22 after operating for 85 years (which would be 1892, the year the opera house opened.) The 1975 photo from American Classic Images shows that the State had an entirely different entrance building than the old opera house, but the old photos don’t show enough of the back of the building to determine whether or not any of the auditorium’s original walls survived the fire.

The March, 1917, issue of club journal The Rotarian had an item about the opening that January of a theater in Williamsport called the Majestic. Given the timing, I wonder if this could have been the house that later became the State? However, it could also have been one of the other Williamsport houses, such as the Rialto or the Park, both of which look as though they could have been built around 1917.

The Keystone Theatre was updated in 1959. The June 22 issue of Boxoffice said the seats had been reupholstered and re-spaced, new lighting had been installed, and projection equipment had been upgraded to complement the new 36x50-foot screen. The renovated house would switch to a first-run policy, according to manager Bernard Cross. Though the Boxoffice item says nothing about a name change for the house, the State marquee in the ACM photo looks like it would date from about this time, so the Keystone might have been renamed the State at the time of the 1959 remodeling.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I just noticed kerfr1’s comment of November 15, 2009, saying that the State had once been the Carlton Theatre. I’ve found many references in The Billboard about a Karlton Theatre in Williamsport during the 1930s and 1940s. It appears to have been primarily a legitimate house, with some live music events.

This recent article from the Sun-Gazette indicates that the Karlton was the former Majestic Theatre, and was at the southwest corner of Pine and West Church Streets, so kerfl1 must have conflated the Karlton with the State.

This extract from a book about Lycoming County says that the Majestic/Carlton was built in 1907 as the Family Theatre, became the Majestic in 1917, the Karlton in the 1930s, and was demolished in 1952, but I’ve found some conflicting information I’ll have to check out. The house might have shown some movies in its early years, though.

The same book says that the State Theatre was demolished in 1978.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 23, 2014 at 11:10 pm

The State Theatre opened in March, 1919, as Keeney’s Theatre. The announcement in the March 28 issue of The Film Daily said that the new theater occupied the site of the Lycoming Opera House.

Keeney’s was taken over by new operators in late 1926, and renamed the Keystone Theatre prior to July 15, 1927.

Paul1 on October 1, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Speaking of the Karlton Theatre in Williamsport, I went to see many movies there in the 1940’s Also saw a touring production of “Oklahoma” there I believe in May of 1947.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 8, 2018 at 9:16 am

Here is an item from the April 12, 1919 issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Keeney’s 1,650-Seat House in Williamsport Now Open

“FRANK A. KEENEY’S new theatre in Williamport, Pa., opened Friday night, March 28, with a policy of high class photoplays. The house is on the site of the former Lycoming Opera House and is a handsome and imposing structure with a seating capacity of 1,650 and is absolutely modern. The facade is of ornamental cream terra-cotta brick. The interior is finished in the beautiful Adam period. The plans for this theatre were drawn up by William E. Lehman, of Newark, N. J., who laid out the plans for Keeney’s other houses in Newark, Brooklyn, and in Kingston.

“One of the features in the Keeney policy is a symphony orchestra, as well as an organist of repute, who operates a pipe organ said to cost $10,000. Herman Becker is the resident manager.”

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