By TOM LAVIS
In this age of megaplex theater chains, many of the neighborhood venues have been replaced by expansive facilities featuring 20 or more screens showing the latest blockbusters.
But through all the changes from drive-in theaters to multiplex movie houses, County Amusement Co. of Johnstown, a family-owned business, is celebrating its 60th anniversary of bringing Hollywood’s finest to the big screen.
Cinematically speaking, owner and general manager Ed Troll IV said the demand for smaller theaters has not waned.
Started as contractors
The Troll family originally was in the construction business under the name of Laub, Collins and Troll before forming a partnership to make movie magic.
The transformation reads like a movie script.
“In June of 1949, they actually built the Richland Drive-In as something to keep their employees busy between jobs,” Troll said.
The theater boasted spots for 850 cars, a playground for children to play prior to the movies and a screened patio for dancing.
The opening night movie starred Randolph Scott in “Trail Street” with “Lucky Lady” as the second show.
Lady Luck smiled on the company as it grew to become the key movie distributor in the region over the past six decades.
“My father called the Richland Drive-In the most beautiful outdoor theater in western Pennsylvania, and it had speaker posts that were individually lighted for safety,” Troll said.
“The family purchased the Westmont Drive-In in 1952 and opened our first season at the Silver Drive-In in 1962.”
From there, County Amusement went on to operate the Embassy Theater and Acts I & II in downtown Johnstown and the Duke and Duchess at the former Richland Mall and later the Richland Mall Cinemas, Johns-town’s only multiscreen theater at the time.
“When we closed one theater, we always had another one opening,” Troll said.
By TOM LAVIS
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