The iconic State Theater in the village of Deposit, New York proudly opened its doors on March 27, 1937 with a 7pm showing of the romantic comedy “When’s Your Birthday.” Admission cost 30 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.
The State Theater building was originally constructed by the Kallet-Comerford movie house chain of upstate New York, which operated over 100 theaters in New York and Pennsylvania, including the Capital and Riviera Movie Palaces at Binghamton, New York. The building was constructed around the former Tom Lewis Chevrolet Garage, built in 1925, which had recently gone out of business. Construction was completed over a four-week period in the spring of 1937 by the Lewis and Sons Construction Company of Bainbridge, New York.
The building contains several beautiful, and quite distinctive, features. The facade was made of blue and black vitrolite glass panels in the art-deco style. The old-fashioned marquee, which stands 20 feet long, 7 feet tall with blue and red neon lights, was designed and installed by the Flexlume Neon Sign Company of Syracuse, New York. The decorative front section of the theater, including the façade, marquee, lobby and lounge areas, was designed by architect H. L. Beebe, an employee of the Kallet-Comerford company.
The theater included all the latest technology including “Mirrorphonic sound equipment,” “the best in projectors,” and a “Walker Super Silver Sheet Screen.” There was capacity for 600 hundred people, all of whom could relax comfortably in the newly installed red upholstered seats. Joseph Essel served as the first resident manager of the theater. The State Theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “a distinctive example of a small Art Deco style movie house.”
The State Theater played a central role in the movie drama titled “A Time to Remember,” which was filmed in the village of Deposit during the winter of 1985. Set in the 1950s the heart-warming Christmas movie tells the story of 12-year-old Angelo Villano, a young boy who wants to sing like his idol Mario Lanza, a popular professional opera singer of the time. Angelo grows to achieve his childhood dream despite the protests of his widowed father, bullying from neighborhood kids and being hit by a car.
As per the plot summary on IMDb “When Angelo is chased by bullies into the path of an oncoming car, he recovers all but his voice, retreating into a silent world that no one can touch. One night, locked in the church basement, the frightened Angelo experiences a spectacular vision, a true Christmas miracle, that changes his life. And when his vision and his voice return during Christmas Eve Mass, no one can deny the beauty and blessing of his amazing gift.” (www.imdb.com.)
Numerous local Deposit residents were cast as extras in the film. The film debuted at the city of Binghamton, New York in November 1987; and was shown the following year in November 1986 at the grand re-opening of the State Theater. Several decades later “A Time to Remember” is still fondly remembered by local residents, being featured every New Year’s Eve at a special showing at the State Theater.
Over the years the theater has suffered its share of bad luck including a 1985 roof collapse due to heavy snow fall, a 1994 fire that destroyed much of the theater except the building facade and marquee and a devastating 2006 flood which filled much of the theater with water. However, in a testament to local volunteer work and donations, the State Theater has re-opened each time.
For over 80 years, the State Theater, a “relatively sophisticated, small Art Deco theatre, visually prominent in Deposit, New York, [has remained] highly valuable as a historic and community resource.” In a town with a large number of business vacancies, the State Theater fortunately harkens back to an earlier time, bringing back the good memories with the theater acting as a focal point of a small-town main street.
Jettner, Alicia. “State Theater.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form. National Park Service. 1988.