Once a shining star itself, the Auburn Schines Theater attracted many celebrities to its 75th birthday party Sunday at Willard Memorial Chapel.
The Save Our Schine group commemorated the historical downtown Auburn theater's 75th anniversary with a presentation called “The Neighbors,” a shortened version of a longer program called “Auburn Theatre City.” People were invited to dress as their favorite film stars. Elvis rubbed elbows with Judy Garland as Dorothy in her trademark role. John Wayne appeared, proving Sophie Tucker wrong that “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the songstress's signature song.
The evening started with a showing of “Wholly Smoke,” the first cartoon shown at the Schines when it opened in September 1938, a short cartoon featuring Porky Pig. Then, three women from Save Our Schine read a script that narrated a slide show that presented photos, newspaper clippings and a timeline of Auburn's major theaters of the past.
The S.O.S. group created shortened versions of the presentation to fit different needs for community groups, and will lead a presentation in October.
“Our intent is to educate the community of what was in the past,” said Mary Farrell, of Save Our Schines. In doing that, the group hopes to help the community get an “understanding of why to save the Schines Theatre.”
“It should be restored as soon as possible,” said Arlene Ryan, also of Save Our Schine. “And in our lifetime!”
Besides the Schines, the presentation detailed the theaters such as the Capitol, Strand, Jefferson and Palace.
After the program, people had refreshments, ate birthday cake and perused memorabilia on display.
The theater's South Street building is owned by the Cayuga County Arts Council Inc. Board members Collin Sullivan and Dia Carabajal were among the 50 people who attended the presentation.
“We're here to celebrate with them,” Carabajal said. “All contributions are welcome.”
She added that the council started an Indiegogo.com fundraiser to help pay for the upkeep of the building's exterior and marquee. It also will host a fundraiser called Artini (a play off the word martini) from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at The Point, Sand Beach Road, Fleming.
Farrell said they use the presentations as a chance to raise awareness among those who may be interested but don't know much about the theater.
“We hope to teach, and continue to learn at the same time,” she said.
As she began her research, Farrell was surprised that there were so many theaters, and iterations of what became the city's major venues. The research took two years as it snowballed into a bigger project as they discovered more and more details, she said.
“It was very arduous,” she said of the research phase. “I spent a lot of time in the history room.”
The past was unwound by spending hours delving into resources at Seymour Library, the historian's office and local websites, specifically the newspaper archive site FultonHistory.com.
Sunday was about celebrating the beginning of the theater more than seven decades ago, with the hope that the community will see it be revived to its past glory.
“The Schines Theater became a centerpiece of the city that night,” Farrell said of the September 1938 dedication, “and remained so for years.”