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About the Allen Theatre
by Natalie Hope McDonald

After three years of total renovation, the Allen Theatre opened its doors in Annville on September 21, 1995.

Located in the heart of the downtown at 36 E. Main Street in Annville, PA 17003, about three and a half miles west of Lebanon and six miles east of Hershey, the Allen Theatre is one of the few single screen movie theatres in Central Pennsylvania specializing in first-run main line as well as art, and foreign films. And while this 322 seat theatre dates back to the early part of the century, little is actually known about the history of the theatre.

A Rich and Varied History

In the early 1900s, local deeds suggest that the theatre had been called the "Hippodrome" and later the "Astor," which carried on well into more recent decades. It was while the theatre was named the Astor in the 1930s that the space was expanded to constitute what is now the present auditorium, with its expanded stage and seating area.

While the Astor had shown popular feature films of the period, establishing itself as a second-run movie house, the theatre later exchanged hands and resorted to reeling X-rated films by the 1970s. Eventually, the Astor closed in the mid 1980s after poor maintenance and a brief stint with religious productions under the guise of the "Trinity."

From second-runs, to adult films, to religious entertainment, the theatre had garnered a diverse reputation which the present owner of the Allen Theatre had set out to combat. The first aspect targeted with change was the name of the theatre which had been jaded by illicit films and the installation of a club where live bands and audiences demolished the decor of the Astor.

And what may have seemed like an unreasonable extent of renovation and contrary to the advice not to embrace the effort, the theatre has since become a neon emblem of the community. 

Audio Excellence

The theatre audio is Dolby Digital EX and has been installed by Clair Brothers Audio Systems, Inc. of Lititz, PA and RMS Service and Electronics Inc. of New York City --t wo of the most reputable leaders in the world of sound -- ensuring an outstanding sound performance for all Allen Theatre screenings. Further, RMS in New York City also provided the theatrical sound technicians for director George Lucas's New York City premier presentation of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Crystal Clear Projection

The Allen Theatre more recently installed a new projection system, including state of the art lenses for your viewing pleasure, with installation by Cardinal Sound and Motion Picture Systems of Beltsville Maryland, providing a bright sharp image for all Allen Theatre features. 

Stylish Design

The Art Deco style suggests that the theatre has had a renaissance of taste popularized in the 1920's and 1930's. With total renovation complete, the Allen is essentially a new theatre on the site of an old one.  

A Community Institution

With a staff of about twenty employees and a full-time projectionist, this family-operated establishment has drawn crowds from outlying regions of the community, including a four-county area. The intimate environment is a particularly important feature of the Allen Theatre, breaking away from contemporary trends toward major cineplexes that have sprung up alongside malls in the outskirts of suburbia. The Allen Theatre is instead a return to the downtown.

Not only does the Allen Theatre share its locale with small town eateries, but Annville is home to Lebanon Valley College, a liberal arts school with an enrollment of over 1,000. The theatre, as a result of its proximity to campus, has virtually become an off-shoot of campus life, mingling students with community patrons. The Allen has been host to the college's Sundays at the Allen film series, as well as numerous other college-sponsored events. 

Since its debut and formal dedication by Hollywood director Randal Kleiser (with credits including Grease and It's My Party), the theatre and coffeehouse have become a premier venue for film and live entertainment.

This Lebanon County landmark, central to entertainment in the region, suggests that rather than tearing down the facade of years passed, character can be preserved and restored - flourishing with a new generation of patrons along the way.

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36 E. Main St. Rt. 422 (Exit 85A, I-81)
Annville, Pennsylvania 17003
(717) 867-3545