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Vintage Berkeley Springs theatre gets a modern updating

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Technology demands finally caught up with the Star Theatre.

Owners of the 1928 vintage movie theatre in Berkeley Springs were left with two choices. They either had to implement costly improvements or face going out of business as the movie industry forced the conversion to new digital equipment.

"The distributors have basically announced that by the end of 2013 there will be no more movies on film," said Jeanne Mozier, who owns the Star along with her husband, Jack Soronen. "Anyone who is not committed to making that switch will close their doors. That's about where the industry is."

Larger, more modern facilities have been making the transition for several years. The smaller and older theatres have been slower to change. It represents a major capital investment for a one-screen, 325-seat, mom-and-pop theatre like the Star, which will celebrate its 85th anniversary during 2013.

Mozier said it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure selections of movies on old-fashioned film. Only two film versions of a current release were available in the entire Washington-Baltimore area.

"We said, ‘We can't imagine closing the Star and having no theatre in Berkeley Springs,' so, in spite of the enormous investment, we found the equipment and we'll be putting it in December," Mozier said, noting the next closest theatre is 35 miles away in Martinsburg. "We felt we had to make a commitment to keep it going because it fills such a unique niche."

The conversion from a multiple reel set-up to a DVD-like device will be made during the time when the Star typically closes for the holidays.

"It's exciting in a lot of ways," said Mozier, stating a new screen has already been added. "It will improve the image and the sound for our audience. It will allow us to show movies sooner after release since we will be able move up the supply chain. We will be able to show a wider range of movies."

Mozier said the upgrade will result in new possibilities for Star audiences such as live coverage of opera events from the world-famous Lincoln Center.

Movies at the Star are popular with both visitors and residents of the Morgan County community, which is officially the town of Bath. It's the post office that is known as Berkeley Springs.

"For visitors, it's just irreplaceable," said Mozier, an author, astrologer and integral promoter of the arts in the community. "It really captures for them what it is they think of when they come to Berkeley Springs. It's a major deal."

Not everything will be changing at the theatre.

There's the familiar neon marquee sign at the corner of Congress and North Washington streets. And you can still relax on a comfy couch or an over-stuffed chair while enjoying a $1 box of popcorn from an antique popper, circa 1949.

"People love the popcorn," said Mozier, whose been an owner of the theater since 1977. "Our popcorn still remains probably the most significant reason why people come to the movies."

Movies will be seen at the regular 8 p.m. show time on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, expanding to Thursdays during summer hours. The Star opens for Sunday matinees when children's movies are scheduled.

Ticket prices will be increasing slightly in the new year from the current rates of $3.75 for adult admission and $3.25 for students, according to Mozier.

"We may have to raise it to $4."