The Star Theater has celebrated 84 years of memories for at least 4 generations of local residents who recall Saturday cowboy matinees, the smell and flavor of greasy popcorn and holding hands in the dark. The ‘show house,’ a landmark at the corner of South State Street and East Idaho Streets continues to be a gathering place for local families.
Built in about 1917 by A.C. Gordon, the ‘Star’ was originally know as the ‘Wheaton Theater’, a small forum for traveling dramatic troupes. Gordon put a movie screen in and changed the name to the ‘Star Theater’ when he purchased the building.
Gordon kept the stage and the dressing rooms located in the basement area of the theater intact, it was the silent movies with a piano player that brought the crowds in. Gordon eventually built a second theater, 'The Mayfair'. Gordon said during the Great Depression era of the 1930’s they would have Keno and Penowin game nights in the theater, giving away dishes and the likes.
Roy Rogers made personal appearances in Weiser, barnstorming and promoting his movies. Rogers was a close friend of the Gordon’s. The ‘Star’ was also used for Vaudeville shows in the evening. Will Rogers gave one of his great performances on the stage of the ‘Star’.
In 1939 Bruce Gordon son of Howard and wife Velma, who had sold the theater to their son, renovated the Star Theater. The 1939 grand re-opening of the ‘Star’ was one of Bruce’s most vivid memories. His parents had undertaken a large-scale renovation of the theater, approximately $40,000.00, adding such expensive items as tapestry wall coverings and a marquee, both of which are still in use today.
One of the first shows after the grand re-opening was for the premier of ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and it was a sellout overflow crowd.
Bruce’s father, Howard, died in 1942, leaving Bruce and mother Velma to carry on with the family theater.