Ritz Theatre Re-opens For Movies After A Year’s Closing
On October 30, 2009 Jay Richards, Sr. re-opened the Ritz Theatre after a spending almost a year restoring the back and front of the theatre from water damage. It had been shut down for months after Richards bought it back from the Taggerts who owned it for a short period of time. A drain pipe got clogged and backed up some water, so Richards needed time to make the repairs before re-opening again.
Richards originally purchased the theatre in 1989 after he heard from one of the concession workers that it was up for sale due to the owner’s death. He sold it to the Taggerts two years ago and bought it back from them earlier this year.
“I’ve always wanted to own the Ritz,” he said. “I spent the last 20 years in the propane business and I thought this would be a good time to get into the business,” said Richards who will turn 63 this week. He was 42 when he first purchased the theatre. As a licensed projectionist, his first movie was “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.” He is the fourth owner since January 4, 1923 when the Ritz first opened with the show, “Queen of Sheba.”
Almost Destroyed By Main Street Fire 16 Years Ago
Shortly after Richards bought the theatre in 1989, a fire broke out on Main Street on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 25 exactly 16 years ago to the day. The fire started in an apartment building due to a faulty dryer switch, above McKay’s Hardware store and Widmann’s Drug store, two businesses that were destroyed by the fire. The buildings dated back to 1857 according to a report in the Luminary dated Wednesday, December 1, 1993. Five apartments were also destroyed at the time, leaving six residents homeless. The smoke and water came into the Ritz Theatre said Richards as the volunteer fire men were battling the fire from the roof top of the theatre. Richards said he was one of the people who reported the fire which broke out around 7:30 p.m. Water had to be shuttled from the Susquehanna River to tackle the blazes because there was a water shortage back then and a lack of water pressure. Fortunately the fire departments kept the fire from spreading and the Ritz Theatre was saved. It was extremely difficult for them to control recalls Richards. “The downtown acted like a big chimney said Tim Lupold, Muncy fire chief at the time. The Ritz theatre had to close for ten months after the fire.
Joining him today is Doris Stewart from Muncy, Richards’ mother who can be seen working the concession stand and taking tickets just about every night. “This is a family run business,” Richards added. “My father has always helped too especially with minor repairs. We do a lot of the physical work around here ourselves. Our main goal is to provide great shows so people can enjoy themselves and have a good time. I really like that atmosphere. Enjoying movies is positive, Sometimes I am here until three in the morning on weekends,” he said.
“I like to keep busy. Working here is a lot of fun and we have friends who like to come and help too,” said Stewart standing next to her son helping him with customers.
Jay Sr. and his mother are planning on putting together an archive of old photos and theatre tickets that once were ten cents along the wall leading to the restrooms downstairs. They also want to improve the front curbing and pave the parking lot. He also hopes to restore the original globe lights that once appeared on the outside above the ticket booth. “I still have some of the originals but some got broken, and I hope I can find some to match,” he said.
This building really shows the craftsmen of yesteryear. It is an all brick building with built in glass blocks on the front. Most of the facade is original. “It’s nostalgic,” said Stewart. A nice feature that Richards added to the inside of the theatre are panel drapes along the walls to absorb the sound.
Richards is hoping that his discounted prices, state of the art sound system and comfortable seaating will bring more people to the Ritz instead of the mall. A movie is played every night around 7 p.m. Old Dogs will start Wednesday, November 25 followed by Walt Disney’s, The Frog and The Prince.