In Boyertown: Lights, Camera, Action!, and Comfy Seats

BOYERTOWN PA – Patrons are raving about the newest arrivals at Boyertown’s 110-year-old State Theatre. Colorful!, they proclaim. Exciting! Thrilling! And although its film presentations are just as entertaining, audience seating is what prompts the State’s latest buzz.

In Boyertown: Lights, Camera, Action!, and Comfy Seats
It’s easy to find the refurbished seats, right up front in the darker maroon color and attractive fabric. Seats at the rear are awaiting similar attention

All 215 seats (at top) in the historic film showplace at 61 N. Reading Ave. are being painstakingly refurbished, row by row, in a labor-intensive project that was planned in 2019, according to the theatre’s website. It didn’t get started, however, until February 2022, so the work-in-progress is observing its one-year anniversary this month.

The first 10 rows of seats, representing more than 500 hours of volunteer effort, are already completed (at left), State Theatre manager Shannon Shaw, and her husband, Ken, reported in a media release. Seven more rows await similar preservation, not replacement. Its operator, the non-profit State Theatre Preservation Society, considered it important to modernize for patrons’ comfort while retaining the authenticity of its past.

“The renovation of the State Theatre seats is not just a physical transformation,” Shannon Shaw confirms. It’s “a revitalization of the community’s cultural heritage and a commitment to preserving the beloved historic venue for future generations to enjoy.”

The entire project should be finished later this year. The public has an opportunity to help, too; an online fund-raiser allows movie-lovers far and wide to offer financial donations that will offset project costs.

Volunteer efforts concentrate on only one or two rows at a time. Seat backrests are removed first, then the seats themselves, and finally the metal arms attached to the theatre’s concrete floor. Seat parts are carefully disassembled, and their components numbered, to ensure what came apart goes back together in the same way.

Metal parts are shipped to Maguire Products in Aston PA, where they are “shot blasted” down to shiny but bare surfaces, and from there to A. W. Mercer Inc. on Industrial Drive, which applies and heat-cures their new color powder coating. Upholstery pieces are sent to Schultz Upholstery on Colebrookdale Road for installation of comfortable new foam and fabric.

All three suppliers have received the society’s praise and thanks for their contributions of time and energy.

Back at the theatre, while the restored pieces are awaited, the seats’ wooden armrests are stripped using three different grits of sandpaper, then carefully stained and refinished with three coats of polyurethane. Later, as the seats are rebuilt, specially designed sliding cup-holders will be added for patrons’ convenience.

Throughout it all, the theatre has continued to welcome guests to a 365-days-a-year wealth of first-run movies, presented with high-quality digital cinema and sound equipment in a historic and eye-appealing Art Deco setting. Ticket pricing represents a discount from fees charged by many chains, and the popcorn and other concession items get good reviews.

Now the seats are an equally improved part of the experience.

Photos provided by the State Theatre