Redevelopment Authority

of the City of Butler



Call 724-283-0116

Penn Theatre





     The Butler Penn Theater is situated on North Main Street (Census Tract 9024) in the Historical Downtown District of Butler, (Butler County seat) Pennsylvania.  The theater was originally built in 1938 with Art Deco themes which were covered as the building went through renovations to accommodate two movie houses. 


Th                  The Penn Theater for the Performing Arts


     Another key component and potential economic catalyst  as a destination generator is the Penn Theater for the Performing Arts. Originally constructed in the 1930’s, the  theater is one of the few remaining art deco movie houses in the state, and has been the subject of recent interest for restoration and reuse. Upon  renovation, it is believed that the theater, “reborn” as a regional performing arts center, will draw from as estimated total of  45,000 patrons annually.





Ø Site control is in place

Ø The Penn Theater for the Performing Arts  development has already received preliminary approval for historic tax credits from the Department of Interior.  The Penn Theater for the Performing Arts has also been listed as a project  for receiving an RACP allocation of $1.1 million dollars from the Commonwealth. 


       The Penn Theater for the Performing Arts development (in the City of Butler) is the renovation of a 17,500 square foot Art Deco style theater located on Main Street in the center of a downtown National Register Historic District.  The Penn Theater for the Performing Arts is a crucial component of the Main Street  Revitalization Strategy, already underway.  The refurbished theater will be a catalyst for economic development of the downtown corridor by:


Ø Having a positive effect on surrounding businesses as a destination generator

Ø Increasing the local tax base  through additional revenue

Ø Improving the quality of life “live, work, play” concept in Butler and the surrounding areas.


The  Penn Theater for the Performing Arts Development also has many components to ensure successful, long-term viability as evidenced by:


Ø Adaptive reuse of an existing historic building for cost effectiveness

Ø Knowledge/expertise of development team with an established track record in community development

Ø Part of  a broad-based city revitalization strategy as a stimulus for economic growth, community interest, increased pedestrian traffic, and patronage of other downtown businesses

Ø Directly contributes to designated Main Street Program

Ø PHASE I project renovation already completed

Ø Prime Main street location within walking distance of restaurants, retail shops, and plentiful parking

Ø Easy access to neighboring communities via Routes 8 and 422




          Construction of  the Butler Penn Theater by Miller & Dumbaugh began in September 1937 at a cost of $125,000.  The theater located at 147-151 North Main Street, Butler, PA was designed by New York architect James E Casale, and seated 1,100 on the main floor with 40 loge chairs in the mezzanine level.  It boasted luxuriant art deco lighting, carpet and friezes, modern projection equipment, and a state-of-the-art air conditioning system which cooled the air by forcing it over a pool of water drawn from a 320 foot-deep well drilled under Main Street.  The Penn was the latest venture of Anast N. Notopolous and Paramount Theaters' Service Corp., who managed several movie houses throughout Western Pennsylvania from their Altoona, Pennsylvania headquarters.  Notopolous, who started business in 1910, was noted as one of the moving picture theater pioneers in the region.  In the polite writing of a bygone day, the owners bought an ad in the April 23, 1938 Butler Eagle which read, "Thank you, Butler, for the splendid turnout accorded us yesterday. . . .Thank you for the thousands of paid admissions, the praises of our beautiful theatre, and how you were thrilled by the unforgettable beauty of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's romantic 'Girl of the Golden West.". 


       The Penn Theater has been a prominent focal point and attraction to downtown Main Street Butler since 1938.  Initially, the movie theater prospered largely due to its entertainment appeal. During the '40s and throughout the '50s, the Penn Theater continued to be Butler’s  principal entertainment venue. However, business  fell into a slump over the past two and a half  decades due to competition from mall theaters and metroplexes forcing  the theater to close its doors in May 1991.  At the same time, there was also significant business migration to the malls contributing  to the decline of Butler’s downtown area.




     In addition to its large auditorium on the first floor, The  Penn Theater  also contains a small, black box theater, the Bantam, on its upper level.  The Penn has 10,980 square feet, and the  Bantam has 3,120 square feet of space.



     The exterior consists of a two-story ceramic tile-covered cinder block rectangular  structure that has experienced significant deterioration over time.  The building originally had glass block and awning-type   windows on the second level-some which have been removed and the spaces blocked.  Initially, there was a center elevation to the  front parapet  that has banding thrusting from the flat roof.  These features have been altered or removed during the course of repairs/renovations throughout the years.



     The downstairs interior is divided into two principal spaces- the lobby and the Penn Theater .  The Penn currently has 456 seats in its auditorium with two side aisles that were the original configuration.  The Penn Theater still has many charming aspects of the original Art Deco decorations (discovered under layers of paint).  These interior design elements include Romanesque/Greek   murals on the rough plastered walls and decoration on either side of the shallow vaudevillian proscenium stage/screen.  This theme is carried out into the lobby with the Art Deco terrazzo floors.    There is a  large stage area with spiral staircase, a  partial basement (25'x36'), and  lobby with restrooms and concession stand. The original lobby was more extensive than it is today.  Divider walls have been constructed on either side of the current lobby sector.  Today, the space on the left and right of the lobby belongs to the theater and are currently leased by independent operations.


   A second 114 seat black box theater (the Bantam Theater) was added in the 1960's in the mezzanine level along with an operations room for film, lights, and sound management in the center of the upstairs space.   On either side of the operations room to the rear of the black box theater are 2 theater boxes overlooking the downstairs Penn Theater.  These areas are now used for storage and office space. 


   Additional remodeling in 1997 included concession and projection equipment updates with platters, surround sound, subwoofers, led readers, Xenon lamp houses, etc.


   Although the Penn Theater has ample seating space, it lacks dressing rooms and storage prop areas to accommodate live events.   Reconfiguring current space to support these proposed activities is a major focus of the building’s renovation.


If you are interested in helping with the Penn Theater, plan for the Penn Theater, talk about upcoming ideas, or have any questions, please contact the Redevelopment Authority, who will forward your information to the new owner.