84 years of Star Theatre history
by Jazz Clark
Formerly a car garage, today’s Star Theatre showed its first movie in 1928 as the Johnson Theater, after recovering from a fire that ravaged that block of North Washington Street in 1898.
At that time, a nighttime showing of a movie would set an adult back between 10 cents and a whopping 25 cents.
The theater was later leased by regional Alpine Theaters chain in 1949. They remodeled and installed much of the equipment later used as the Star.
The theater was purchased and resurrected by husband and wife Jack Soronen and Jeanne Mozier in 1977.
Iconic equipment includes the 1949 Manley popcorn machine still used to make concession popcorn, and the brightly colored marquee which attracts visitors to the theater.
The infamous couches, which can be rented for 50 cents, were placed where the seats were coming loose from the moorings.
While the new digital projector is a big change, this isn’t the first time that the projection technology has been upgraded in the old brick building.
Until December 2002, a vintage 1949 carbon rod projector was still used, requiring Soronen to have
to switch between projectors every 20 minutes when the rod burned up.
“It was like two welding rods touching each other,” said Soronen. “They have to be constantly monitored as the flame makes the light source for the film.”
The newer xenon bulb system was installed because carbon rods were no longer produced in the U.S. Importing carbon rods from Japan is pricey.
Every week, about 300 people visit the Star, about 20% of them tourists. Most of the audience is older people or families.
More than 1,700 movies have been shown at the Star since 1977. Movies have been shown at that location almost 85 years.
“We’re still making a commitment to the community,” Soronen said. “I’ve always enjoyed the historic nature of the theater. It’s a unique heritage piece in the modern world.”