It’s an anachronism in today’s world of multi-screen megaplexes owned by nationwide chains.

The Allen Theater, a Main Street landmark in Annville, is Lebanon County’s only remaining single-screen movie house. No reclining stadium seats and wall-shaking sound system, no video games in the lobby, an old-school marquee out front.

Charming, quaint, cozy, but still a business that has to compete with corporate chain theaters. Running the Allen is hard work.

Ed Felty, who, along with his wife Sue, has owned the theater for the last five years, knows he can’t do it forever.

When word got out in August that the theater might be on the market, Felty was, at least publicly, noncommittal. But his Oct. 20 email to LebTown left little doubt.

“It is for sale (still by word of mouth). I am ready to ‘pass the torch,’” Felty told LebTown.

Sale plans aside, the theater is maintaining its usual full schedule. The marquee on Oct. 20 touted Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour film and a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. The Allen’s website was also promoting a one-day screening of the 1988 classic Beetlejuice, and showed bookings through January.

Asked to confirm that the theater continues be “running on all cylinders” despite being for sale, Felty replied that it is. “LOL, need to keep the cylinders well-oiled,” he said.

According to a March 31, 1990, story in the Lebanon Daily News, former owner Henry Yordy believed the theater was built in 1941. However, multiple other sources, including the theater’s own website, say the theater, originally know as the Hippodrome, dates back to the 1920s or earlier. It was renamed the Astor sometime around 1929.

By the 1970s, the building was suffering from a lack of maintenance and was reduced to showing X-rated movies. It officially closed in 1990 after being vacant for several years.

Skip and Martha Hicks bought the building in the 1990s and returned it to its original art deco luster, reopening it as the Allen in 1995. They added the adjacent MJ’s Coffeehouse, since renamed the Backstage Cafe.

Running a theater such as the Allen is different from running a megaplex, Felty said. “The tricky thing about a single-screen theater is, when you get a movie, you have to keep it for so long. Typically for a first-run film it’s two weeks, sometimes three, and that’s the only movie you can show.”

To reduce dependency on revenue from movies, the Feltys added a dance floor, which reduced the seating capacity from 320 to 282, and have been using it for parties, reunions, and other events. The theater also plays host to comedians and live music.

Why are the Feltys selling? “Any business owner can appreciate what I’m about to say: you are never off,” Felty said. “You’re always thinking about what you can do to improve the business.”

“I’m at the point where I had a nice first career in education as a teacher and administrator, and my wife recently retired as a teacher. We’re ready for our encore years.”

Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Support local journalism.

Cancel anytime.


🌟 Annual

Already a member? Login here

Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news. You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


LebTown membership required to comment.

Already a member? Login here

Leave a comment

Your email address will be kept private.