Sun Theatre

1127 8th Avenue,
Altoona, PA 16602

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Colonial Theatre, Little Theatre, Vernon Theatre, Sky Theatre, Sky "2" Theatre

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This long-running Altoona East Side theatre of some five decades was located in a familiar building to Altoona’s past. The 19th Century structure was home to the Knights of Malta Hall in the late-19th Century beginning in 1896. It kept the Malta Hall name as home to many fraternal organizational meetings into the 1930’s. The Patriotic Order Sons of America (P.O.S.A) Hall was established at this location in 1909. The structure was known as the P.O.S.A. Building containing the Malta Hall. But for movie lovers, the P.O.S.A. building also housed the Colonial Theatre and was likely operated on a ten-year subleasing agreement with the P.O.S.A. retaining ownership.

The Colonial Theatre launched April 14, 1917 with “carefully selected” big feature films from Vitagraph, Paramount, K.E.S.E, and Pathé Films. The theatre changed its program daily. Ladies got souvenirs and kids got free candy on opening day. With a tight seating capacity of 500 with 200 of those seats in the balcony, the theatre was able to have stage shows, as well. The theatre featured a Wurlitzer CX Orchestrion for its music programming. The theatre went out of business in 1927 though re-emerging in November of 1928 as the Colonial Theatre under new operators.

The new operators would have a heavy mix of live events and some motion pictures. But the theatre did not convert to sound and became known as The Little Theatre hosting live plays and other events. The Ideal Amusement Company took on The Little Theatre on November 16, 1934 renaming it as the Vernon Theatre and equipping it with RCA photophone sound and new projectors. The theatre was a neighborhood second-run, double feature movie house. The opening program was Will Rogers in “Handy Andy” and Ken Maynard in “Gun Justices” supported by short subjects.

The Vernon Theatre under Ideal Amusement served its East Side residents complementing its film offerings with political speeches, Catholic-themed meetings, and occasional Italian language films. However, Ideal Amusement left at the end of a 10-year subleasing agreement in 1944. The theatre continued with sporadic live events and meetings.

After World War II, new operators E-T Theatre Enterprise Circuit of Middleburg, Pennsylvania, reopened the theatre with the Weiser family running the operation. C.D. Weiser was the boss and it was renamed Sky Theatre. Projections was by William G. Wesier and Richard C. Weiser. H.K. “Grandpa” Weiser took over whenever anyone needed a day or more off. The family also hosed the Orinoco Tribe 424’s regular meetings. But the situation was overcast and the Sky Theatre was padlocked after showing in June of 1948 and offered at a sheriff’s auction later in 1948.

New operators Harry Peters and Clifford Snyder took on the theatre with Weiser saying he still owned the “Sky” nameplate. He threatened a suit to have the theatre stop using the name of Sky. Until signage changing the name arrived, the theatre briefly went by the name of Sky “2” Theatre. On December 2, 1948 the theatre officially became the Sun Theatre. They left prior to a year of operation in 1949. New operator John Hamilton came and showed both English language and Italian language films before leaving within a year. Then Lewis G. Hausser took on the Sun Theatre before he died in 1952.

New operators reopened the venue with widescreen on November 8, 1957 with “Beast of Hollow Mountain” in CinemaScope and Abbott and Costello’s final film, “Dance With Me Henry” supported by a cartoon. The Sun Theatre continued into the 1960’s and eventually closed. The P.O.S.A. Hall was torn down later.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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