THE BURWELL THEATER
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1249 Gihon Road
Parkersburg WV 26101
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THE BURWELL THEATER
Nelson Burwell built The Burwell Theatre it has been a part of Parkersburg for half a century but its time is at an end. Ground was broken for the theater at 1908 St. Marys Ave. in the spring of 1938. The Burwell first opened its doors at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 14, 1938. The show featured at the grand opening was "Holiday," a first run film from Columbia Pictures starring Kathryn Hepburn and Cary Grant. It began running at 7p.m. When it opened, the Burwell Theatre had a daily matinee and evening show. At that time, the cost of its matinee show, which started at 1 p.m., was 10 cents for children and 15 cents for adults. Admission for the regular 7 p.m. show was 15 cents and 25 cents.
At the grand opening. and for many years afterward, the Burwell's projection booth was run by E. A. "Pops" Early, who was already a veteran motion picture operator at different city theaters of the time. The theater was built by Nelson Burwell, a Parkersburg resident of the time and contained the Latest in theater equipment for the period. For a time it was rented and run by Reinhold Riney) Hiehle, a theater owner at the time. After Riehle left, Burwell him self ran the theater until his son in law, Malcolm Lowe, tookover after returning from World War II in 1945. Lowe ran the theater until the early 1950s when it was sold to its current and last owners, the jur .Theatre Circuit Inc.
In the Sept. 13, 1938 edition of the, Parkersburg Sentinel descriptions were given of various parts of the theater. Here are some excerpts from that article. The Burwell was modeled after the large metropolitan type of motion picture houses. A modernistic theme was carried out in the entire construction, exterior and interior, and it was thoroughly fire proofed. "The exterior walls were finished in white with black glazed brick and glass brick trimming in the front. Down spouts on the gleaming white sidewalls were finished in bright black, while the side exit doors were painted blue. "Over the front entrance is a brilliantly lighted marquee of red, yellow and blue. The lighting system on the marquee consists of a new design in neon tubes installed by the American Sign Company and they glow in colors of gold and green. The name of the theater in letters 3 1/2 feet tall and placed on top of the marquee is lighted in ruby red neon. Rows of white and yellow bulbs light the underneath part of the marquee.
The large auditorium was finished in special acoustic plaster for improved sound effects from the talkies. 'The auditorium contains 803 red leather seats of spring Construction and backs of striped red velourn upholstering. Across the top of the seats are bands of chromium, which not only add to the attractiveness of the auditorium but will make the seats more discernible in the dark. More space than is usually provided in theaters was allowed between the rows of seats, which will be welcome news to tall persons. The theater had many ups and downs during its years and went through several changes. As one a example, are modeling project 10 years ago cut the number of seats in the auditorium to 400. The Burwell and its adjoining parking lot, which make up an entire city block, have been purchased by the Orion Development Corp. a Wheeling area company which demolished the Parkersburg's land mark theater in 1990
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