To the Forest-Area Historical Society,
I missed out on the golden years of the movies of the 1930"s and 40s. My earliest recollection of attending the Forest Theater was with my parents at a very young age, probably around 1950-51. They would go to the theater to see a movie and the current news reels of the time. The main news event of that period, of course, was the developing Korean War. Shortly thereafter, I don't remember the exact year, the theater closed for several years.
The Forest Theater was located at the corner of Lima & Patterson streets. It was once known as the Forest "New Star" Theater. I had always remembered calling it the "Forest Theater" as that was the name displayed on the arched sign on the front. Many years earlier, the building had once housed the Mick & Cline grocery store before it was converted into a movie theater.
Then, around the year 1955, there was letter that the old Forest Theater was planning to reopen. I was 8 years of age and the prospect of having a movie theater in Forest again was exciting. One summer afternoon, some friends came running over to my house, shouting, "The theater doors are open!" From my house on Patterson Street, I could see a few blocks down that the green doors on the side of the theater building were indeed open. We ran down the street to see what was happening. Inside, work was in progress installing a new movie screen and a large speaker. We peered inside, wondering if it was permissible to enter. We cautiously walked in and took our seats among the rows and watched as a worker completed the wiring to the speaker. He called out to the projection booth operator to "run something to test out the sound." A few minutes later, music from a nondescript movie soundtrack filled the theater. The technician checked the connections, assuring that everything was working well with the sound. We later watched as the workers raised the large screen over the front of the speaker and attached it into place. The white fiberglass screen was perforated with small holes so the sound could project through.
A few weeks later, after much anticipation, the Forest Theater finally reopened with the film "Blackboard Jungle" starring Glenn Ford. The opening song of the movie was popular at the time, "Rock Around the Clock." It was played loud and sounded great over the new theater sound system.
To stay up with the latest technology in film presentation, the Forest Theater soon installed a new wide Cinemascope screen. The first wide screen movie to be shown was the biblical story, "The Robe." I remember attending that movie with my parents and recalling how strangely quiet the atmosphere was that evening from previous nights. Even though the theater was full, it was like walking into a church. You could hear a pin drop. The audience contained more adults than usual, some actually wearing suits and ties. A few of the noisy, rowdy kids from movies past were in the audience. However, on this particular night, they were well behaved, somehow understanding that the solemn ambience of this event was not to be disturbed or disrupted.
It was good to have a movie theater in Forest again. Over the next few years, a wide variety of movies played at the Forest Theater. The titles ranged from "Creature from the Black Lagoon" to Bob Hope and Lucille Ball comedies and many other popular films of the time. I particularly remember attending the Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller. Even though these films were made in the 1940"s, they were popular among the kids growing up in the The feature was usually preceded by a Three Stooges short and previews of coming attractions. Sometimes, there would be a cartoon. These movies always attracted many kids and the atmosphere before and during the movie was sometimes noisy, if not a bit rowdy. There was no snack bar. If you wanted treats, you had to walk across Patterson Street to The Village Inn Restaurant for candy and drinks. Be sure to keep your ticket stub, but they usually never checked.
Movies at the Forest Theater during those wonder years of the 1950's were always a welcome treat. It was something to do. I remember riding down Lima Street in the car with my dad on occasion and seeing the bright lights of the Forest Theater sign and the marquee at night. Large block lettering announced the name of the movie that was showing that evening. It was a nostalgic and magical time that seemed would last forever.
Then, sadly, after just a few short years from its reopening, it was announced that the theater was closing due to poor attendance and low profits. The advent of television was finally taking its toll. The last night of movies at the Forest Theater must have been reminiscent of the film "The Last Picture Show." Many theaters in small towns across America were closing due to the competition from the new medium of television. The Forest Theater finally closed its doors and went dark forever.
Several weeks had passed when I happened to wander by and notice that the theater doors were open once again. Walking into the building, I watched as a lone worker removed the art deco sconce lighting from the side walls. The rows of seating had already been removed and the building was now just an empty shell. The screen and the speaker were gone. At the rear of the theater, there was a pile of scrap 35mm film that had been swept from the projection booth, a few candy wrappers and some old ticket stubs. I thought of all the generations before me that had enjoyed watching a movie in this building, the laughter, the gift nights and families just spending a night together. It was soon to be a forgotten piece of history. Today, I consider myself lucky to have been a kid growing up in the '50s and being able to enjoy those few years of movies at the Forest "New Star" Theater in my hometown of Forest, Ohio.
The Forest Theater building stood vacant for a few years before eventually becoming a storage warehouse for McBride"s Furniture Store. Due to its age and deteriorating condition, the building was later demolished. The B & B Dairy Barn was later constructed and presently resides on the property. Only the memories of a past time still exist.
Steve Rabberman, 2007.
To the Forest-Area Historical Society,
I read a very interesting article on the old movie theater entitled "Star Theater" written by Steve Rabberman. I thought maybe I would add my two cents also.
My "history" of the Forest theater goes back in time a few more years. The first movie theater in Forest was in a row of store fronts a few doors down from the restaurant (which was on the corner) and close to Pfeiffer's dry goods store. This was located on the south side of main street. My Dad, Morris L. Burk, was the projectionist for "silent movies" and my Mother, Thelma Burk, played the piano. This was before I was born but my older sister remembers that she was a little girl when they operated this little theater. They continued operating the theater until a new theater was built. They had a ticket booth right out front. Mother sold the tickets and Dad again ran the movies. The movie "machines" were on the second floor of the theater. There were two machines. When one was running, my Dad would get the next "reel" ready on the other projection machine. Once in a while, a reel would break and Dad had the equipment to mend it but people would have to wait a few minutes before he could start the movie again.
The best movies were shown Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. Wednesdays and Thursdays many times had a double feature (two movies for the price of one) and on Friday and Saturday, it was usually cowboy westerns and sometimes another double feature. Of course, I went to the movies every night - ha! Usually there would be a Disney cartoon, then a " news reel" on world events, then the featured movie. Things that were shown much later on TV, we kids saw in the movie theater - like The Bowery Boys and Little Rascals.
We even had the very early "space" serials where the heroes walked out of a "metal cylinder" that was the space vehicle. There was a refreshment stand that sold popcorn, candy bars, and gum. The movies were black and white first, then they were able to come up with "technicolor" which was great.
I have all wonderful memories of the movie theater in Forest. In those years, may people attended the movies. It was a source of great entertainment and the price of a ticket was not much. There was no TV back then. My parents continued to run the theater until they closed it for lack of attendance, probably in the mid-1940s.
Barbara (Burk) Huckabay, 2008.