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The Ritz Theatre, Reading, PA

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The small theatre, which once stood at 819 Penn Street, had various names over the years, including the Crescent, the Princess, and even the Arcadia for a short time after the original Arcadia theatre in the 700 block of Penn Street was replaced by the Astor. However, in 1941, the Wilmer and Vincent theatre chain gained control of the site, made extensive improvements, and reopened the building as the Ritz. On February 7 of that year, Gene Autry came riding into the Ritz in the motion picture, "Ridin' on a Rainbow," which celebrated the grand opening.

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    The Ritz, 819 Penn Street, Reading, PA.
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    The Ritz (far right), 819 Penn Street, Reading, PA.

For many children of that decade, the Ritz became the place to be on a Saturday morning when tickets cost a dime and the show was an all-day affair consisting of one or two feature films (usually westerns), a serial (or "chapter"), a two-reel comedy, two color cartoons, and a "frolic program with lots of prizes." The Ritz was the place downtown where Mom sent the kids to get them out of the way for awhile while she shopped or housecleaned or did the myriad of things that were part of the housewife's chores in those days.

In 1944, the Ritz joined the Fabian circuit of theatres. It was now promoted as "The Down-Town Family Theatre" and continued with a double-feature program of family films like the Henry Aldrich series and Brenda Starr serials. Bugs Bunny cartoons and the latest newsreel were also immensely popular with patrons. Also continuing to play on the screen were westerns like the Red Ryder series, starring "Wild Bill" Elliott as Red and Bobby Blake as Little Beaver. Later, Allan "Rocky" Lane would appear on the Ritz's screen as Red Ryder. But it was not just the youngsters who enjoyed the Ritz's fare, for many an adult, after finishing shopping in the numerous stores which then adorned Penn Street, would cap off a perfect day by plunking down 30¢ at the box office window.

On September 26, 1951, with no official announcement, the Ritz locked its doors forever. In approximately 1956, the theatre was torn down.

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