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Star Theatre celebrates 20 years

September 30, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - It will be deja vu all over again Wednesday night as the Star Theatre relives its grand opening with a 20th anniversary party featuring the same lineup of entertainment it had back then.

It was on Oct. 1, 1977, that Jeanne Mozier and her husband Jack Soronen, after months of renovations, re-opened The Star Theatre at 137 N. Washington St. That night the Critton Hollow String Band, singer and restauranteur Tari Hampe and The New World Theater Company provided the entertainment.

They'll all be back at 8 p.m. Wednesday, along with vintage blues by Ken and Cecilia Jankura and poetry by Kate Shunney. Just like 20 years ago, Mozier is promising a fire-eating finale - literally - by The New World Theater Company.

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There won't be any movie that night, but all the live entertainment is just $5, with the proceeds going to benefit the Ice House Art & Community Center.

"We had done nothing like this. We weren't big movie buffs," Mozier recalled between snack bar customers Sunday night. The couple had been living and working in Washington, D.C., before taking a year off to travel the country and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives.

They owned a farm in Morgan County and when they returned, The Star had been closed for about a year. Mozier said they saw the vintage projectors and popcorn machine and said, "we've got to own these machines."

The one-story brick building first housed a car dealership around 1930 that quickly folded, Mozier said. It opened as a movie theater in 1934 and was later purchased by the Alpine theater chain, undergoing its last major renovation in 1947.

The 325-seat theater maintains that Eisenhower-era ambiance and the prices paid by patrons seem about 20 years behind the times, as well. The movies are a few weeks past first run, but it is the only theater for about 30 miles, so $3 a ticket and $2 for a large popcorn is a good deal.

Up in the projection booth, Soronen was getting ready to thread "Excess Baggage" with Alicia Silverstone onto the two Brenkert carbon arc projectors. On a shelf behind the projectors is a pile of carbon rods sheathed in copper.

Soronen said the two projectors burn up about six of the rods - three negative and three positive - for each film. "It generates a light so bright you can't look at it directly," he said.

Both projectors were overhauled last winter with parts from a company in Greenbelt, Md. At a modern multiplex, one projectionist can usually operate all the automated projectors from one room, he said.

Down in the snack bar, which Mozier said used to be the telephone exchange for the town, the walls are lined with numerous articles and artifacts from over the years. An old playbill on the wall advertises "Top Gun," except this one was a 1957 Western with Sterling Hayden, rather than Tom Cruise's modern jet jockey film.

Mozier said the couple has saved the movie posters from all 1,200 films they've shown over two decades.

Soronen said when they bought the theater there were several old seats that had come loose from their moorings. They filled those spots with three couches that are still there. Moviegoers can stretch out for just 50 cents more a seat.

The theater is open for one show a night Friday through Saturday, with a Thursday night show added during the summer. "Obviously, there's not really enough work for employees, but there are periods in the night when Jack and I need help," Mozier said.

That's when friends and patrons often volunteer to help out.

"Our prosecuting attorney loves to come in and make the popcorn," Mozier said of David Savasten.

"Tourists love it. They'll come up and say, `This is just like the theater I went to when I grew up.'" Mozier said.

She also expects many of the 400 who showed up 20 years ago to be on hand for the celebration.

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