Dan Burke remembers going to the West Shore Theatre as a kid to see his first movie, “Bambi,” with his mom. In his teenage years, it was where he took the cute girl in class on a date.
Now, decades later, he’s working to restore the landmark theater in New Cumberland to its glory days.
On Wednesday, Burke and other members of the Friends of the West Shore Theatre gathered under the building’s signature marquee to celebrate significant progress in fundraising.
“We realized the value of trying to restore and keep this theater here in New Cumberland,” borough Mayor Doug Morrow said. “The funding is in place. We are moving forward.”
The West Shore Theatre opened in 1940 with 25-cent tickets. It remained a beloved, small-town theater for years before its doors closed in 2015. Friends of the West Shore Theatre eventually acquired it and began planning to bring it back to life.
Morrow announced that, with several new grants, the board has raised $1.4 million of the $2 million needed for the renovation.
The most significant chunk of funds was $650,000 from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). The PA Department of Community and Economic Development also awarded the board a $250,000 grant. Other local foundations provided grants, as well.
Friends of the West Shore Theatre launched a capital campaign with hopes of receiving the remaining $600,000 for the project from the community.
The money will go towards the renovation, which includes adding seating and a standing lounge area, stage improvements, purchasing equipment and other upgrades.
Additions to the back of the theater, such as green rooms and classrooms, will likely happen a year after it opens to the public, Burke said.
Morrow said that they intend to use the theater for showing movies, live performances, theater classes and for community group meetings.
“This is just a little theater in a little downtown area,” said state Sen. Mike Regan (R-31). “But to rally this many people to care about this project […] to restore the grandeur of the centerpiece of this community is something very special.”
Renovations have not yet begun, but The West Shore Theatre will likely be up and running by the end of the year for holiday movies and events, Morrow said. He projected that, in early 2022, the facility would have a full schedule of movies and events.
“It’s not just about nostalgia,” Regan said. “It’s about economics, it’s about growth. We need things like this to bring people to the downtown.”
For more information, visit the Friends of the West Shore Theatre’s website.
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