The Warner Brothers' Niles Connection

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Warner family

Where did the Warner Brothers get started in the movie business? New Castle, Pennsylvania may well have the honor of having the first Warner Theater built in 1907, but the Warner brothers began their show business in Niles, Ohio.

Harry Warner’s father, Benjamin Warner, was a shoemaker, so it was natural for the oldest son to follow in that trade. According to the program listed below, Harry was 15 and working in the shoe shop and was a familiar figure to all who passed by his window on State Street, which was located exactly opposite the site where the Warner Theatre now stands. Harry was born in 1881, making the year 1896, when they started in the movie business.

Again the program mentions the start of the family in Niles. “Many residents of Niles will also remember the first exhibition of the motion pictures in this city given by Mr. Albert Warner, a crude affair perhaps when contrasted with the handsome edifice which now becomes the shrine of the silent art in this community, but as the art has developed so have its pioneers progressed with it and the Warner Theatre with its initial program stands as an eloquent example of the fact".

Ma Warner

Niles residents remember the boys showing the silent flicks in the Diebel’s Butcher Shop on Mill Street (now State Street).

PO1.908

(L) Niles residents remember the boys showing the silent flicks in the Diebel’s Butcher Shop on Mill Street (now State Street).

(R) View of State Street looking north with the Mango Building and Central School in the background on right.

The Warner shoe repair shop is marked with a yellow arrow. Later, the Warner Theatre would be built directly across Furnace (State) Street.

The Warner Theater appears on the left side of picture(See yellow arrow). Before Park Avenue was cut through to the east side when the Warner Theater still had 3 floors.

PO1.1578


The Verbeck Theatre was constructed about 1904 on the west side of Furnace or East State Street near Park Avenue.

PO1.1372

The Verbeck Theatre was constructed about 1904 on the west side of Furnace or East State Street near Park Avenue. Traveling repertoire companies gave such plays as "The Coward".

Later, the Verbeck Theatre became the Opera House which caught fire in September 1920 when a film cannister ignited.

Later, the Verbeck Theatre became the Opera House which caught fire in September 1920 when a film cannister ignited.

PO1.1591


Playbill from the Opera House,

Playbill from the Opera House,
dated February 25, 1916.

An article from the Niles Daily News dated September 17, 1920 detailing the fire at the Niles Opera House and the cool reaction of manager Ben Warner. PO1.1371

An article from the Niles Daily News dated September 17, 1920 detailing the fire at the Niles Opera House and the cool reaction of manager Ben Warner. PO1.1371

Close-up of newspaper article. PO1.1371

Close-up of newspaper article. PO1.1371


The Opera House became the Warner Theatre in 1921. The top story of the Opera House building was removed creating the two-story building which became the new Warner Theatre. It opened in 1921 with Ben Warner as manager.
The Warner Theatre, as it appeared in 1921, was built by Harry M. Warner with a Warner Brother's float at the curb on State Street.
The Warner Theatre, as it appeared in 1921, was built by Harry M. Warner with a Warner Brother's float at the curb on State Street.

Original text from 1921 opening program of the Warner Theatre in Niles, Ohio.

Original text from 1921 Opening Program of the Warner Theatre in Niles, Ohio.

“The opening of a new theatre in any community is always an event of interest and often of importance, but the inaugural presentation of Warner's Theatre to the theatre goers of Niles carries more significance than is apparent on the surface, and is doubly distinguished by several features that are not only unique, but which are unparalleled in the history of American amusements.

The palatial structure which has arisen, Phoenix like, from the ashes of the old Niles Opera House is not only a model modern theatre embracing the latest refinements and innovations designed for the better entertainment and comfort of its patrons, but there is a sentiment of filial devotion attached to the very walls themselves which will stand as a tribute and a lasting monument to the energy of the men responsible for their erection.

A veritable romance, typical of the spirit of true Americanism which has made this land of opportunity the leading nation of the world, might be written around the facts and events in the history of the Warner family, with Niles as its locale and dating from the time, slightly over a score of years ago, when a boy of fifteen industriously working in his little shoe shop was a familiar figure to all who passed by his window on State Street, which was located exactly opposite the site where the Warner Theatre now stands. There are no doubt many citizens of Niles who can recall Harry Warner's first start in business in this modest way and who will be gratified to have been spectators of the career which he has carved with the tools of pluck, perseverance and ability, and which, with the aid and co-operation of his four brothers, have made the name of Warner one of the leaders in an industry ranking as the fifth largest in the United States.

Text continued below.

Original text from 1921 opening program of the Warner Theatre in Niles, Ohio.
 

It is a far cry from the pioneer days of the motion picture, with its "store shows" and short flickering films, to the present day development of this most popular of all entertainments, with veritable palaces showing productions that cost fortunes to construct and here again is Niles the location of a most concrete example of the evolution of the photoplay.

Many residents of Niles will also remember the first exhibition of motion pictures in this city given by Mr. Albert Warner, a crude affair perhaps when contrasted with the handsome edifice which now becomes the shrine of the silent art in this community, but as the art has developed so have its pioneers progressed with it and the Warner Theatre with its initial program stands as an eloquent example of the fact.

Although the five sons of Mr. B. Warner have gone forth into the fields of commerce to seek their fortunes, their thoughts are ever centered on the Ohio town where they spent the days of their youth, and where they received the first start of their business careers.

Blessings sometimes come in disguise and the silver lining of the cloud that was cast by the smoke arising from the ruins of the old Niles Opera House was the decision of the sons of Mr. Warner to erect in Niles a temple of the motion picture art which would stand as a tribute to the parents whose love and devotion had given them the strength to fight the battles of life, and also as a mark of gratitude to the community which had given them their start in business. A monument as distinctive in its way as the beautiful Memorial which serves to keep ever fresh the memory of our martyred President McKinley.

The Warner Theatre was not erected as a commercial venture in the strict sense of the word, but as a social centre where the people of Niles could enjoy the very best productions that the combination of science, art, skill and ability could offer on the silver screen.

Here will be shown for the first time all the productions bearing the name of Warner, and by virtue of the affiliations and prominence of the Warner Brothers, the product of many other photoplay producers also.

The opening program of the Warner Theatre is unique in many respects, one of the principal being the fact that every foot of film flashed on screen is a Warner product It is a program that the people of Niles may well take a paternal interest in.

Never before in the history of American theatricals has a photoplay theatre opened its doors under similar auspices. A project conceived, executed, and financed entirely by members of one family, long residents of this community, and presenting an entertainment consisting entirely of attractions bearing the name of the same family.

The entertainment is also one that stands strictly on its merits, as every picture will be sent forth into the open market to meet the keenest competition, and will later be seen on thousands of screens throughout the entire civilized world, but--- after Niles has seen them first.

The pictures presented for your edification on this occasion represent the widest possible latitude of photoplay productions. The feature production "Why Girls Leave Home," being a super deluxe photodrama based upon a vital topic that concerns every home, enacted by a cast of stellar calibre and magnificently produced it promises to be one of the biggest pictures of the current year. Next in importance is the spectacular and thrilling jungle adventure production entitled "Miracles of the Jungle." Here is the apotheosis of the "thrill." Man and beast are shown in a series of adventures that will make the blood tingle, and the manner in which the scenes are executed is a vivid depiction of the daring and ingenuity of the modern photoplay director.

Last but by no means least, is the comedy number with the Warner star, Monty Banks, featured. Millions are caused to laugh daily at the antics of this modern mountebank, who is known the world over as "the Beau Brummel of the screen."

Thus will be noted that the program runs the entire gamut of the photo-dramatic scale, and affords an undisputed example of the wide range of the production activities of the Warner enterprises.

And so the Warner Theatre opens its doors to the public of Niles. Not simply a theatre, a place of entertainment where amusement is purveyed as a commodity, but a structure built on a foundation of sentiment and filial devotion created with the ideal of providing a center where the people of Niles may for a time lay aside the cares of life and in comfort gaze upon the magic screen whereon appear as in the Yogi's crystal vivid scenes if the past, present and future.

The Warner Theatre is thus offered to you with the hope that you will make it an integral part of the community, a project of Niles, for Niles, and by Niles.”


State Street view, looking south, of the Warner Theatre and Solmando Block which was built in 1915.

State Street view, looking south, of the Warner Theatre and Solmando Block which was built in 1915. PO1.167

View of Warner Theatre marquee.

View of Warner Theatre marquee. PO1.199

State Street view, looking north, of the Warner Theatre.

State Street view, looking north, of the Warner Theatre.
Note the Warner name at the top of the building. PO1.165


 

The Warner Theater fell into disrepair as evidenced by the photographs taken in 1975; later the building was demolished in 1976 during urban renewal.

PO1.1975

 

The Warner Theater fell into disrepair as evidenced by the photographs taken in 1975; later the building was demolished in 1976 during urban renewal.

The Warner Theater fell into disrepair as evidenced by the photographs taken in 1975; later the building was demolished in 1976 during urban renewal.

(R) Photo of the keys to the Warner Theater located at 86 East State Street, Niles, Ohio.

 

Photo of the keys to the Warner Theater located at 86 East State Street, Niles, Ohio.


The Garden Theatre was a forerunner of the modern drive-in theatre. Movies were shown in the evening, weather permitting. It was located on North Main Street about where Sparkle Market is now (2001).

The Garden Theatre was a forerunner of the modern drive-in theatre. Movies were shown in the evening, weather permitting. It was located on North Main Street about where Sparkle Market is now (2001). PO1.1373

Additional Movie Theatres in Niles
Stafford Theatre fan dating to 1911.

Stafford Theatre fan dating to 1911. PO1.1370

The Stafford Theatre was listed in the Burch Directory of 1912 at 125-133 Furnace Street (East State). The building location is north of East Park Avenue.

The Stafford Theatre was listed in the Burch Directory of 1912 at 125-133 Furnace Street (East State). The building location is north of East Park Avenue. PO1.1369


A picture of the McKinley Theatre when it was operating on South Main St. in downtown Niles. 1950 ca. Barton's Candy Store is on the left. In 1953 Jo Reese would open her first flower shop at this location. The McKinley Restaurant is on the right side of the theatre's entrance. The theatre would close in 1960.

A picture of the McKinley Theatre when it was operating on South Main Street in downtown Niles. 1950 ca.
Barton's Candy Store is on the left. In 1953 Jo Reese would open her first flower shop at this location. The McKinley Restaurant is on the right side of the theatre's entrance. The theatre would close in 1960. PO2.32

The Butler Movie Theatre was located on South Main Street. The Butler Soda & Grille was located on the south side of the theatre's entrance. 1927

The Butler Movie Theatre was located on South Main Street. The Butler Soda & Grille was located on the south side of the theatre's entrance. Postcard dated 1927.

It would later become the Robins Movie Theater. The Butler Movie Theatre was located on South Main Street. Photo dated 1935.

It would later become the Robins Movie Theater. The Butler Movie Theatre was located on South Main Street. Photo dated 1935. The theatre would close during the 1960s.


The Butler Soda Grille was located next to the Robins Theatre on South Main Street.

L: Advertisement for The Butler Soda Grille which was located next to the Robins Theatre on South Main Street.

R: Bargain Movie Ticket from Guy Altiero's Shoe Repairing Shop located at 3 West State Street.
Many small businesses rewarded their customers with a discounted ticket to the local Theatres.

Many small businesses rewarded their customers with a discounted ticket to the Robins Theatre.

     
 
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