The Angela Theatre opened for the first time on October 11, 1949 with Abbott & Costello in “Africa Screams”. The Angela was named for the daughter of the person who built the theatre. It seated 711 people on its one floor and was Art Deco in design. It had a large lobby and an unusual prism glass proscenium arch with colored lights located behind it that gave an interesting effect. It also had a large V-shaped marquee containing large letters spelling out the theatre’s name.
It closed around 1970 and was basically abandoned until around 1997 when an enterprising person, who still owns the building and runs the theater (that in itself is a good combination), purchased the building and began the tremendous job of restoration. The theatre was essentially a shell that had to be fully rebuilt. The entire family was involved with this work which took a number of years. The auditorium has now been split into three screens, the first reopened in 1999. The main auditorium with Dolby Stereo sound now has 240 seats and is an incredible site to see. The proscenium arch has been restored and the auditorium now offers stadium seating. The marquee has also been fully restored. The two smaller screens each seat 101 and are very comfortable as well.
When Mike Danchak was 14, he liked everything about movie theaters, from the neat rows of floor lights illuminating the aisles to the smell of popcorn. He worked at The Angela Theatre, Coaldale, ushering people to their seats. But once the movie started, he’d sneak up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs was the door to the projection room, the place where his 14-year-old eyes thrilled to the size and flow of the projection equipment.
“I remember the first time I went up there and saw those big projectors working,” he recalled. “I was hooked from that moment.”
“I remember seeing ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ there, the first movie with stereophonic sound,” he said. “I remember the Beatles movie, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ when I started that movie, the screaming was so loud that it rattled the windows.”
Flash forward to 1986. The Angela had been closed for several years and the theater was one of the properties offered at a county sheriff’s sale. Danchak bid as high as he dared, and then bid higher still, but an investor from the Philadelphia area closed the deal.
“I was born in Coaldale and had worked at the Angela as a projectionist since I was 15,” he said. “To get a chance to buy it, but not be able to do it I was heartbroken.”
The Angela remained closed. Years later, Danchak and his wife, Deborah, were at a Christmas party. Deborah worked at the county prothonotary’s office, and a number of people at the party also worked at the courthouse.
“Hey, I heard you’re interested in movies,” said a partygoer. “I know where you can buy an old movie theater for about 500 bucks.”
Danchak, who in the meantime had leased various movie theaters, was very interested, but he couldn’t imagine where.
“It’s in Coaldale,” the person said. “Called The Angela.”
Danchak couldn’t believe it, and jumped at the chance. It was 1993, and The Angela was finally his. And for the next five years, although he never regretted the purchase, he and his family faced challenge after challenge. The roof had leaked. All the once-beautiful, classic plush chairs were rotten and covered in mold. The wiring was completely unusable, the heating system, irreparable, the plumbing, laced with leaks. Bank after bank rejected his application for a loan to use for remodeling. His wife was from Tower City, and the couple did their banking there. One day, while Mike stood in line at the bank, he noticed the person in front of him was wearing a jacket that said “The Angela” on it. Viewing it as a sign, he approached the loan officer at Mid Penn Bank, who gave the couple the chance they needed.
“Once we got the loan, we got the roof on and started to gut the building,” he said. “Things started to happen we found used seats and a used boiler and got the projection room together.”
With lots of help from sons Mike Jr. and Mark and the devoted work of contractor Chris Keer (now deceased), and five years of work, The Angela was ready for its second opening night. The chosen movie was “Titanic,” and every seat was taken. Flash forward again to the present year. For a while, it looked like The Angela was going to close its doors again. The movie business had gone digital, and the Danchaks had a huge decision to make: close The Angela and possibly sell it, or spend about $100,000 to purchase digital equipment.
“We felt that the people in the community and in the surrounding area had always appreciated being able to come to the theater like The Angela, where the ticket prices are cheaper,” said Deborah Danchak. “We need everyone to support us now.”
The Angela has three theaters, two with 100 seats and one with 240 seats, where the digital equipment has been installed. It’s open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The first movie shown with the digital system at The Angela was “Jersey Boys.” They’ve also diversified, adding related ventures under The Angela’s roof. There’s a state-of-the-art recording stereo downstairs, which includes an vocal room and the capability of recording isolated drums. Upstairs, there’s a recording studio for transferring old VCR tapes onto DVDs, with a precise sound system for sharper recordings. In the big theater, there’s also a new sound system sophisticated enough to support stage shows or concerts.
“A lot of people don’t know about all the different things we’re doing here,” Mike Danchak said. “We’re hoping that the community continues to support us by showing up, and buying a ticket!”
Saturday, September 13, 2014
By LISA PRICE l firstname.lastname@example.org