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Movie Night at the Vestal Musuem
Movie Night at the Vestal Musuem

Thu, Dec 22



Movie Night at the Vestal Musuem

We will be showing: The Pirate, June 10 @ 7PM Inherit The Wind, July 14 @ 7PM Midnight Cowboy, August 11 @ 7PM and Network, September 15 @ 7PM

Time & Location

Dec 22, 2022, 11:00 AM – 12:30 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.

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