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10-31-02: No movie tickets to go on sale after New Bremen renovation
The Daily Standard
    NEW BREMEN - Workers are on site this week restoring the former Crown Theater in New Bremen to a facsimile of the village's first movie house, completed in the early 1900s.
    The building will not be used as a public theater, but it will resemble the original 1913 theater, according to Carol Jones, vice president of development for Crown Equipment Corp., which now owns the old building.
    "The facade of that building will be that of the old theater in order to maintain the integrity of the historic look of other buildings restored in the area," Jones told The Daily Standard this morning.
    But facade is the operative word. It will be a theater in theory but will serve as a meeting and training facility for Crown employees and
    Jones said the project is not on a fast track, and no official completion date has been established.
    "We haven't yet determined the configuration or layout of the inside. It's very much in the planning stage," Jones said.
    Crown Equipment acquired the building on Monroe Street in 1996 after the local senior citizens club, the then-owners of the building, agreed to an exchange.
    "Crown offered to build them a new building up the street if the seniors would trade the old theater building. Although some people didn't like the idea, it was a really good deal for the seniors," New Bremen historian Lucille Francis said Wednesday afternoon.
    Drawing from her article in the April 2001 issue of The Towpath, a publication Francis puts together for the New Bremen Historic Association, she said the building has been through many names and owners during the last century.
    "Ironically it started out as the Crown Picture Show in 1913, but that was before there even was a Crown Equipment. So there's no connection other than the name," she said.
    That first audience paid 5 cents for kids and 10 cents for adults to see "Mills of the God," a three-reeler billed not as a movie but as a "subject."     Owned by Herman Laut and Herbert Schulenberg, construction on the building began in 1912 next door to Mrs. E. R. Haines' Millinery Store.     Builder Herman Schaefer did the work according to the code of the day and the owners boasted that the building "possesses all the necessary equipment in the way of fire protection, exits, etc.," as was printed in the New Bremen Sun in January 1913.
    Many area organizations also used the theater for banquets, meetings and receptions.
    The Sun reported in its Feb. 6, 1914 edition that "34 of the Idlewilders of St. Marys ... arrived on the 5:34 electric railway and were received into the spacious Crown Auditorium ... and proceeded to a festal board" where Helen Kettler served a banquet for 51.
    Talkies arrived on Oct. 6, 1927 and the Crown was on the cutting edge with "The Jazz Singer" starring Al Jolson.
    Somewhere along the line the theater was sold to R. H. Becker of Piqua and, in 1928, Tom Larkin of St. Marys purchased the theater, which he promptly renamed the New Crown Theatre.
    In 1931 after a renovation, Larkin reopened his theater, now calling it The Little Theatre.
    With a new sound system and new screen, the Crown was renamed Roosevelt Theatre in 1933 and was leased to Gust Chifos of Middletown.
    In July 1937 Larkin installed air conditioning, a process the New Bremen newspaper thoroughly reported including a detailed description of this new modern wonder that cooled air with water.
    Eight years later the theater was gutted by a fire that started when "in some unaccountable manner the rewinding film caught fire and in a moment the projection booth was one mass of flames," according to the Sun.
    Larkin rebuilt the theater and  just a few months later opened the New Bremen Theatre. But, the many monikered entertainment salon was in its last decade. In 1955, it was sold to The Sun Printing Company.
    The New Bremen Senor Citizens purchased the building in 1969 in order to acquire a central meeting location for the 150 charter members.
    After almost a century, and several years of sitting idle, the Crown is getting another face-lift and perhaps a return to its original name, or maybe the name of its benefactor.


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