Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The State Theatre

State Theatre and State Luncheonette,
Merchant Street, Ambridge
Daily Citizen, January 27, 1959

The State Theatre was one of two movie theaters remaining on Merchant Street in the mid-1950s. The other was the Ambridge Theatre. The State was at 749 Merchant Street and the Ambridge at 714 Merchant Street.

[Update February 22, 2016: The October 6, 1944, Daily Times mentions in an article, "Ambridge Theatre Dispute In Court," about the lawsuit filed by the Penn Theatre's owner at that time, against the "former occupants of the Penn, now operating the recently-built State Theatre." The court's decision includes the information that the former operators of the Penn converted a garage building into the State Theatre.]

Ambridge had once had other movie theaters, including the Penn and the Prince, but those two closed in the early '50s.

According to the January 16, 1959, Daily Citizen, the Ambridge School Board planned to levy a five percent tax on the theaters. The theater owners warned that both the State and Ambridge theaters would close if that tax was imposed, and suggested a 10 percent tax on any shows costing more than 70 cents instead. I'm going to surmise that the theaters had many fewer shows costing more than 70 cents than they did shows costing 70 cents or less. The theater owners told the school board that if the theaters closed, 29 employees would lose their jobs.

The school board must have levied the five percent tax, because on January 26, the Daily Citizen announced that the Ambridge Parking Development Corporation planned to purchase the State Theatre, as well as the old Penn Theatre building on 5th and Merchant Street, to create parking lots.

[Update 6/17/14: photo below added

Closed State Theatre,
 plus State Luncheonette and Color Craft Paints
Merchant Street
photo developed July 1959
photo courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives
used with permission

Note written in bottom border of photo above says "State Theatre 700 Block West S. Ambridge Pa. Built in 1940s."]

In a May 1, 1959 article, the Daily Citizen reported, "Last night marked the passing of another Ambridge theater into time and memory as the State Theatre finished its final show."

I don't remember much about the State. I believe I may have gone there only a few times. I think I remember going to see Snow White there. I do remember going there with my father to see The Long, Long Trailer with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The scene that stuck in my mind, because I thought it was absolutely hilarious, had Lucy trying to fry eggs while the trailer was at a steep slant, and the eggs kept sliding out of the pan and off the stove. The movie was released in 1953 when I would have been three years old. Do I really remember a movie I saw at age three? I'm doubtful. Perhaps the movie was part of a double feature I saw sometime later. I'm still looking for old State Theatre movie ads to try to find out.

The former location of the State Theatre is still a parking lot.

In 1965, the Ambridge Theatre also would close and a new building housing Pittsburgh National Bank was built on the site. The current driveway on the north side of Huntington Bank is approximately where the Ambridge Theatre once stood.


  1. state lunchonette was the IN place to go to be seen in high school, lots of booths good food & cute girls plenty of DAs(haircut shape) around late 40s & 50s, believe the Prince was still open in the 50s. or so.

  2. jd aka john domansky
    thats me in above note, pretty sure the penn & prince were open a little longer than you say. the state was a single floor plan, seats only wall to wall & exit to stage. the penn (had a small balcony) & in old days only showed a single feature, where i saw movie (outlaw) prince & ambridge showed double features, some days i spent all day in ambridge theater, also the prince, no one ever asked you to leave. box of popcorn was 5cents, candy machines were the same, a box of 5 tootsie rolls goodn plenty, choc covered raisins & more good stuff, a quarter was good for all day, wonder why i became such a movie trivia nut, still to this day, TCM H&I & others tv are favorites for me. what was that actors name in so & so movie, no one know, ask john
    ps does anyone recall the serials run on saturday morn.??

  3. See my comment on Facebook about the Saturdays spent at the Ambridge theater for only 12 cents. There was a double feature, a cartoon, newsreel and a serial (sometimes 2). We would enter at 10 am and get out around 5 pm. The A mbridge was my favorite because of the elegance and it was virtually across the street where I lived. The Prince ran second round movies but it has a great organ which contributed to my love of music. Seldom went to the Penn because it was too far away. We watched them build the State and often snuck in to see what was going on. The location used to be a huge garage whose doors, to a little kid, seemed like an aircraft hangar.
    The State luncheonette was a fav for lunch. In th 40's we had over an hour for lunch. That meant we could eat lunch and tour the town, especially Murphys. Good times. No, great times.

  4. I remember that right after the Ambridge closed and was going to be torn down, my Aunt purchased the salvage rites of the theaters stage draperies. the outer ones were maid of a very heavy corduroy that had chains sewn into the bottom hems to help weigh them down for when they needed to be closed. The inner drapes were a heavy material called brocade and could be used for upholstery or draperies which she used for both.


    1. Both Ambridge and Aliquippa had theaters named the "State." And, to add to the confusion, Ambridge also had a "State Luncheonette" at 721 Merchant St., right next to the Ambridge State Theatre.