Auction set for theater items

Auction aims to raise cash for theater restoration

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CHARLEROI – A large cloth banner promoting director Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” when the movie played in 1952 at the Coyle Theater is expected to fetch several hundred dollars when it’s put up for auction, along with other movie-related memorabilia, this week to raise money for the Charleroi building’s restoration.


It’s among the more valuable items, ranging from old movie posters and press books to film reels, to be sold Nov. 24 as the Mid-Mon Valley Cultural Trust struggles to meet a deadline to qualify for grants to save the theater dating to 1891.


“Even the projectors are going up for sale,” said Charleroi Mayor Nancy Ellis, who heads the trust.


She has enlisted the help of Bob DeCroo, an appraiser at Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures events at Sen. John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, to catalogue hundreds of items mostly dating from 1960 through 1980 before the auction at Charleroi Senior Center.


“A lot of the stuff throughout the years that could have had a high value is gone,” DeCroo said. “There are a lot of newer posters.”


The posters were used to promote Disney films and others, including “Fatal Attraction,” “Rocky IV,” “Turner & Hooch,” “Super Girl” and “Death Wish” or featuring Cheech & Chong and Bruce Lee. Even the Pepsi-Cola soda fountain from the 1970s will be sold.


The 1,000-seat theater with a balcony originally hosted burlesque shows and was sold by the Coyle family in 1981 at a time when mall theaters and television proved to be too much competition for small-town screens. The theater eventually closed in 1999 after new owners failed to make a success of the business.


The trust must raise matching money by year’s end be eligible for $179,000 it qualified for in the 2008 local share of the proceeds from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township. It’s under a similar deadline to qualify for a state grant.


State Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California, said Monday the trust has been approved for $500,000 from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, but he was unsure when or if the money would be distributed.


Ellis said that money would qualify the trust to meet the requirements of the other two grants.


“There is a support group assisting us. We feel we’ve gotten a lot accomplished,” Ellis said.


She said the building at 331 McKean Ave., and two neighboring vacant storefronts owned by the trust, have been stabilized.


“We saved these buildings. That’s the most important thing.”


The sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the senior center at 303 Chamber Plaza.


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