Set amidst the backdrop of World War I, the Rowland Theatre opened its doors to the public on June 4, 1917. A few months earlier, President Woodrow Wilson gave his famous war address in Washington, D.C., asking Congress to vote to enter the country into the conflict raging in Europe. Casting his vote in favor of the request was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Charles H. Rowland, a resident of Philipsburg. Rowland had a lot on his plate in 1917. In addition to politics, he was president of the Pittsburgh and Susquehanna Railroad and the Moshannon Coal Company. And, he was also having a theatre built on Front Street in Philipsburg – a 1,000-seat playhouse that would bear his name. The Rowland Theatre opened to large crowds for its initial offering: the silent film Within the Law. Just one week later, it would hold its first live production, The Man Who Owns Broadway. Charles Rowland died in 1921, in the early years of his magnificent playhouse. At the time of his death, the Rowland Theatre was just a small line item in a long list of his accomplishments. Today, it is his lasting legacy. The Rowland Theatre is a story of perseverance and survival. Owned by the Rowland family and heirs for more than six decades, the theatre story came very close to its final chapter when the family put the declining building up for sale in 1978. The next decade would be the defining chapter in the theatre’s life as the community rallied to save the Philipsburg landmark. The theatre remains alive because of a community that would not let it die. Today, the theatre building is owned by the Borough of Philipsburg and leased to the non-profit Rowland Theatre Inc., a group of volunteers tasked with its operation. The theatre’s manager is also a volunteer. In a world of megaplex theatres, the single-screen Rowland Theatre strives to remain a relevant venue. The theatre celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017. Open 364 days a year, it offers first-run movies and live shows. The preservation of the theatre is a constant work in progress. A fund-raising campaign to purchase much needed new seating has begun, and this will be one of the largest projects undertaken in the theatre’s recent history. The Rowland Theatre is a story that continues to be written. Each patron that comes through the doors is helping to keep the adventure going. Thank you for being part of the story.

— Rebecca Inlow

Listen to the author of The Rowland Story, Rebecca Inlow, on WPSU’s This I Believe: I Believe In Movie Theaters