In the early 1940’s Vincent H. Lauter had a dream to build a Slovenian Movie Theatre in Barberton. He bought land on the west side at the corner of 21st Street NW and Wooster Road West realizing that he could not do this endeavor on his own he contacted several Slovenian friends and through their efforts they formed a corporation named, American Slovene Corporation. Its purpose was to exhibit, play or otherwise display and reproduce, for all purposes, still and motion pictures.
The corporation was chartered on the 12th of September 1945 with Louis Arko, Frank Smrdel and Vincent Lauter as signers. The board consisted of nine (9) directors. To the best of my knowledge including the signers, they were: John Gerbetz Sr., Anton Pecnik, Jennie Penko, Bill Black, Anthony Gradisher Jr. and Joseph Voros. Through their efforts they sold corporation shares to 300 Slovenian families in the Barberton area.
Soon after breaking ground it was discovered that the land was on quick sand so the initial funds raised by the shareholders were sunk into pilings that had to go down ninety (90) feet. This delayed the construction. In the meantime the board obtained a loan from a Slovenian-owned insurance company in Cleveland to fund the completion of the building. The total cost $670,00, included everything from seats in the building, to the film projectors, they got the best of everything. It was a really up-to-date theatre with all marble entrances and marble in the restrooms.
The Theatre opened up for business on August 20, 1947, minus the marble around the box office, side walls of the entrance lobby and the interior walls of the restrooms. The marble was finally installed in the spring of 1948. The theatre did well until television, then theatre goers dropped down to almost nothing. There was months that the board members loaned the Corporation enough money to pay the interest on the loan. The going was tough, but they prevailed.
All in all, Vince Lauter, as the secretary/manager kept it going and the Corporation was able to pay off the theatre’s debt in January 1978. The business continued and had its up and downs and kept many movie goers entertained.
In 1995, the stockholders voted to sell the theatre/building and dissolve the Corporation. The theatre/ building was sold on October 26, 1995 to SGP Enterprises. It operated the theater on long weekends until January 2008, and then closed.
The current owner purchased the building in October of 2012. The basement is converted to inside mini storage, but the theater has remained empty until now.
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