Good Life

New Rowland Theatre marquee to tie past to present

The Rowland Theatre on Front Street in Philipsburg will get a new marquee to help celebrate its 100th anniversary.
The Rowland Theatre on Front Street in Philipsburg will get a new marquee to help celebrate its 100th anniversary. adrey@centredaily.com

The line between past and present is a thin one — which is why every once in a while it requires a little bit of maintenance.

In June 2017, the Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg is planning on celebrating its 100th anniversary with a facelift, the gift that keeps us all smiling.

In the case of the Rowland, this cosmetic procedure is a labor of love, not vanity. The building’s aging marquee will be replaced by a reproduction of the original that adorned the theater’s gates back when it opened in 1917 with a showing of the silent film, “Within the Law.”

“What’s out there now is just kind of a shell of the original 1917 marquee,” Rebecca Inlow, a Rowland board member, said.

While still better than a shell, the reproduction will swap aluminum for the original’s copper construction, but the glass component will remain the same.

What’s out there now is just kind of a shell of the original 1917 marquee.

Rebecca Inlow, Rowland Theatre board member

In a land filled with multiplexes, the Rowland has often distinguished itself through a rich sense of history, a throwback to a time when movie theaters were palaces, tickets cost 11 cents a stub and cars were, well ... smaller.

The original marquee extended roughly 2 feet out over the street, leaving more than enough head room pre U-Haul, pre-delivery truck or just plain pre-convenience, really.

Today’s bigger, brawnier cars pose a threat to idling marquees, which loosely translated means that the Rowland board had to receive permission from the Philipsburg borough before they could proceed with the reproduction. The walkway in front of the theater will also be extended out by 6  1/2 feet.

In addition to keeping the Rowland’s shiny new canopy in one piece, the added sidewalk space will add a new dimension to the exterior of the building, one that Inlow hopes will make the aging movie palace the place to be on Front Street.

“We’ve kind of put the term ‘plaza’ on it because it’s not just a street,” Inlow said.

It kind of links the past with the present and the future.

Rebecca Inlow, Rowland Theatre board member

To raise money for the project, the Rowland is selling 3,500 engraved pavers for $100 each. Orders can be placed through a link on the theater’s Facebook page or by mailing in payment with a completed order form.

The newly engraved bricks will be placed side by side with the other personalized pavers already lining the sidewalk.

“This has probably been the biggest project we have done in quite a while,” Inlow said.

In addition to the canopy hanging overhead, the plan is for the plaza to sport a digital marquee that displays images promoting whatever movie or event is coming soon to a theater very near you.

“It kind of links the past with the present and the future,” Inlow said.

Work on the plaza is tentatively scheduled to begin in late summer for a fall completion, while the canopy isn’t expected to be finished until spring 2017.

The marquee reproduction may play toward the building’s long history, but Inlow recognizes that it’s the theater’s present day patronage that is to thank for the Rowland’s continued relevance.

“It’s the people coming through the door that keep us open,” Inlow said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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