Time & Location
Jun 10, 7:00 PM
Vestal, 328 Vestal Pkwy E, Vestal, NY 13850, USA
About the event
From our Vestal Town Historian Margaret Hadsell:
For 27 years movie-goers sat before the "big screen" in the unique Quonset-style Vestal Theater.
Here's how it began.
On December 18, 1947, Eugene Minier and William Paynter went before the Town Board to discuss the proposed theater near Star Dry Cleaners on the new road to Binghamton, aka the Vestal Parkway.
A resolution was adopted that included: Minier must show that "such a motion picture theater would
be desirable in the Town of Vestal". Further that "school children of the Town could see motion
pictures without going far from their homes and becoming involved in heavy traffic", and finally
that "there is no other place of amusement in the Town ...". Eight months later, on Tuesday, August 3, 1948, movie goers watched the first film on the marque, "The Pirate".
Owners Eugene Minier of Wyalusing, PA, George Lambert of New York City, and Clyde Yurgatis of
Laceyville, PA spent over $170,000 constructing Vestal's only indoor theater. It was actually two
buildings, the auditorium in the Quonset-style portion and the cinder block structure housing the
ticket booth, lobby & projection room. Fully air-conditioned, its wide-screen and stereophonic
sound system was state of the art for the time, but the plush upholstered sliding seats were matched
only by those at Radio City.
Life was good until the day after Christmas in 1960. That's when Vestal's worst commercial
building fire in 40 years severely damaged this well-known landmark. Here's what happened.
Inherit the Wind was playing and shortly before the 2 p.m. show time on Monday, Paul Cohn,
brother of theater manager Reuben Cohn was in the box office preparing for opening when he heard a
cracking noise that "sounded like a popcorn machine running". He saw the flames on the stage as he
walked into the auditorium. Within minutes he was choking from the smoke, yet he managed to save the rented film.
About 100 firefighters from Vestal, assisted by other municipalities, fought the blaze for more
than two hours. Three Vestal firemen were taken to Ideal Hospital for smoke inhalation and a fourth after being struck by
falling loudspeaker debris. The fire had swept into the narrow area between the galvanized steel roof of the Quonset-type construction and the ceiling. Fire extensively damaged most
of the 615 sliding seats which had been purchased in 1948 for $15,000. Fire investigators ruled the cause as spontaneous combustion in the stage area.
After sitting idle for a year, Arnold Gardner of Vestal, in partnership with Roger and Robert Mead,
purchased the in property in January 1962 leasing it back to the former operator Peckum Corporation of
Binghamton. The restored theater, now with only 550 seats, opened under former manager Rueben Cohn. Fifteen years later a May 23, 1977, newspaper article announced that the theater could no longer compete with the large cinema chains and would close. The last film shown was "Network".
Once again life was breathed into the thirty year old building when Frank Pettey, head of Indoor Recreation remodeled the leased building as an indoor skateboard park in April 1978. Unfortunately, three months later it was closed with no explanation.
Pasquale ''Patsy'' Scarano, owner of the land immediately west of the theater bought the property for $130,000 in August of that year. He offered the building for free with the stipulation that the buyer must move it off the property and fill in the foundation. When no one showed interest in the offer, the building was demolished in November 1979.
Ó Margaret Hadsell 2014. Used with permission.