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[graphic header] A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
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[graphic] Comerford Theater

Comerford Theater today, now a performing arts center
Photograph by and courtesy of Robert Janosov

Historic image of the Comerford Theater
Photograph courtesy of the F. M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

The Comerford Theater opened in 1938 as Wilkes-Barre's largest, best-equipped, and most modern movie palace. Designed in a Deco-Moderne stylized ziggurat composition the theater is faced with terra cotta tile and green marble. Interior features include a foyer paneled in walnut, an auditorium and loge finished in walnut and translucent marble panels, and ornamental plasters and bronze throughout. The Comerford Theater is the only survivor of the city's three movie palaces. The modern American Movie Palace, as it evolved in the early 20th century, rapidly became a fixture in the medium to large city. Important as a means of affordable entertainment and a recognizable part of the urban cityscape, the Movie Palace was a major part of the Movie ideology, coming from Hollywood, California, which made the American cinema more than a pastime. The architecture of the Movie Palace was lavished with an abundance of eclectic ornament, making new reference to historic architectural styles as well as the latest Art Deco forms. The Deco-Moderne architecture of the Comerford is rare in the Wyoming Valley and its significance as the major architectural legacy of depression-era Wilkes-Barre is related to the city's unique history and reliance on anthracite for the economy. Opened on August 18, 1938, to considerable press coverage, the theater was founded by M. E. Comerford, a native of Larksville, a township less then two miles from Wilkes-Barre. Since he grew up locally, Comerford was regarded as one of the city's "own." It was fitting and proper, at least in the public's eye, that the Wilkes-Barre Theater should be the most luxurious of the area, outdoing those in Scranton, Hazleton or other northeastern Pennsylvania towns. In 1949, the Comerford Corporation was subject to an anti-trust suit and had to divest itself of a number of its theaters, and on September 2, 1949, the Comerford became the Paramount, which was the first in the region to use air-conditioners. Some local residents created S.T.O.P. (Save The Old Paramount) when it was faced with destruction, and their efforts were successful in having the old Comerford Theater added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The theater was rehabilitated after being damaged in Hurricane Agnes and is now a performing arts center.

The Comerford Theater, now the F. M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, is located at 71 Public Sq., in Wilkes-Barre. Please call 570-826-1100 of visit the Center's website for information on upcoming events, membership information box office hours and ticket purchases.

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