Most of us now see movies in multiplexes or on flat-screen television sets, but we still have a lingering sentimentality for the one-screen moviehouses that once dotted Main streets in communities around the country.
They were usually owned by community members, not some distant, anonymous conglomerate, were often ornate and inviting and were the site of fondly recalled first dates or family outings.
The Coyle Theater in Charleroi is a prime example. It closed in 1999, done in by falling revenues, but valiant efforts have been undertaken in the 14 years since to revive it. Those efforts could be in peril, however, following a decision by the state last week to pull the balance of a grant totaling almost $180,000 because the Mid Mon Valley Cultural Trust has so far been unable to raise sufficient additional funds or come up with a plan to show that restoring the theater would be viable over the long term. Another state grant of $250,000 also is in peril.
We hope that the organizers of the drive to save the theater – who Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober correctly acknowledged have put their “heart and soul” into it – are able to find other sources of revenue and put the project back on track. As we’ve seen in this region in the last decade or so, restoring old, beloved moviehouses is no easy task: The Waynesburg Theatre and Arts Center on High Street closed after briefly flickering back to life; in Washington, the Uptown Theater attempted an ambitious performing arts schedule in the middle part of the last decade, but it folded, and now the structure houses a church; the Denis Theatre in Mt. Lebanon is still empty nine years after it closed, despite an ongoing push to revitalize it; and the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, which screens both new independent films and classics, has opened, closed and re-opened, but now it faces the possibility of closing again unless it can raise $75,000 for new equipment to show movies digitally.
As in the movies that once flickered across its screen, we hope a happy ending is in store for the Coyle Theater.