Star Theatre gets new owners after 42 years

Pictured, from left, are Jack Soronen, Jeanne Mozier, Skylar Forney, Jackie Forney, Henley Forney, Scotlyn Forney and Sean Forney.

After 42 years of showing movies and making popcorn, Star Theatre owners Jack Soronen and Jeanne Mozier are retiring.

Mozier announced in a press release on Thursday, April 4 that the couple sold the Berkeley Springs movie house to Sean and Jackie Forney, who took over the theatre just in time for last weekend’s movie: “Alita: Battle Angel.”

“We all wanted the transition to be seamless,” said Mozier.

Sean Forney is a Morgan County commissioner, and took office in January. He runs several local businesses.

“We’re pleased that Sean and Jackie want to keep the Star much the way it is,” said Mozier. “When Sean said they wanted to be the next Jack and Jeanne, we knew we found the right owners.”

The Forneys will be only the fourth owners in the century-old building on a main corner in the historic downtown, said Mozier

“We appreciate the historic responsibility,” said Sean Forney.

Built originally by the Johnson family as a car storage garage in 1916, the unassuming brick structure was turned into a movie theater in 1928. Several operators leased the business over the years and in 1949, the Alpine chain took it over, added the marquee and undertook much of the décor that remains. Mozier and Soronen bought the theater from Evelyn Lynn in 1977 changing the name to the Star. The theatre is listed on the WV Historic Theater Tour.

“We love the vintage look,” said Sean Forney, “and hope to enhance it in the future.”

According to Mozier, he was adamant that he and wife Jackie plan to continue the Star Theatre as a family-friendly and affordable movie house. They do have long term plans that will add occasional special events, including live concerts.

“Jeanne has emphasized how important the popcorn and the amazing machine are to the Star’s success,” said Jackie Forney who is taking over the popcorn-making task.

A veterinary technician now on break as a stay-at-home mom with three children, Forney said the happiest outcome is that her goats and chickens love the leftover popcorn.

Both new owners are looking forward to working the Star as a family, Mozier said in her press release.

“It’s great that Sean and I can do something together,” said Jackie, “and that our kids can grow up as part of a family business.”

The Forneys also own RWRWV Insurance and several clusters of storage units.

Mary Hott of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center assisted with the sale. Mozier said all parties agreed with the research that shows keeping local movie theaters open is an essential part of an economically healthy small town.

“We’re especially pleased to see the Star Theatre continuing as an arts-based anchor business in the historic downtown of Berkeley Springs,” said Hott.

“The biggest question we get is what are Jack and I going to do now,” said Mozier. “We’re not leaving town but we will be exploring what other people do on weekends besides going to a movie at the Star.”

Mozier is a longtime promoter of tourism, local history and the arts in Berkeley Springs. She plans to continue all those activities as well as her travel writing.

“Now we can travel more than two or three days mid-week,” Mozier said.

The Star schedule is available online and on social media. The phone remains the same at 304-258-1404.