Kutztown University’s Public Relations students working with the Kutztown Community Partnership to rebrand the theatre
By Gina Glantz
The Strand Theatre was recently purchased by the Kutztown Community Partnership (KCP), and students in the public relations program at Kutztown University are helping to highlight the Strand’s history and update the public on new changes.
The KCP bought the Strand in February 2023. They received a $270,013 grant from the American Rescue Plan. Additionally, The Local Shares Account-Statewide program gave the KCP $450,000 dollars to renovate The Strand.
The new owners plan to expand the theatre’s offerings to include performing arts, local events, and educational and community programs. The KCP also plans to replace the roof, install a new HVAC system, and make the building safer.
The KCP has started updating the building. According to Amy O’Brien, the professor working with Kutztown’s public relations students, several 80-year-old car batteries were removed from the basement because they were “oozing all over a table.” The car batteries were installed in the 1940s to power emergency lighting in case of a power outage.
The Strand Theatre closed in June 2022 when the previous owner, Paul Angstadt, died. Many felt its absence, including Kutztown residents, local main street shops, and community leaders, such as State Senator Judy Schwank, who supported KPC’s initiative.
A reopening date for the theatre has not been set yet.
The KCP plans to create social media sites for The Strand. The sites will update community members on renovations, include timelines, and state when The Strand will reopen.
After it reopens, the social media sites will show what is playing at the theatre. This new social media approach aims to gather a larger audience.
The social media sites will also ask for donations, as the renovations are costly, and the
$450,000 grant does not cover all expenses.
The KCP has a website, which updates the public on The Strand. Also available on the website is a timeline of the theatre’s history from 1908 to today, which was researched and created by Kutztown University public relations students working for The Agency.
The theatre originated as the Kinetoscope Arcade in 1908, located where the Kutztown Tavern stands today. It was owned by Paul Herman, who opened a one-screen cinema near his arcade in 1912. In 1927, Furman B. Willis leased the cinema from Herman and renamed it, “The Strand”. Over the years, The Strand had two more owners, Larry Fenstermacher, who bought the theatre in 1945, and Paul Angstadt who purchased it in 1969. Paul Angstadt renovated the theatre into a two-screen cinema in 1977.
The full historical timeline of The Strand can be viewed here, on the KCP website.
Kutztown’s PR students worked with the KCP to rebrand The Strand as a part of their senior capstone.
The PR students’ main responsibilities were researching The Strand’s history, writing blogs and a newsletter about its evolution, and creating a social media strategy plan and samples of social media profiles for the theatre.
The students also created a timeline of the Strand’s history and interviewed past employees and Paul Angstadt’s family to better understand how The Strand was run.
The students in this group got feedback from Sandy Greene, who is a community liaison at the KCP and is a former mayor of Kutztown.
The Agency, which is the senior capstone for PR students, gives real-life experience in building portfolios, networking, and working with clients.
The PR students worked together to simulate a real PR agency. The students wrote a blog, where they talked about Paul Angstadt and his history with the Reading and Kutztown community. Some students also wrote a monthly newsletter about the importance of maintaining historic buildings, especially in Kutztown, a town that has a rich history.
The PR students praised the program and recommended it to all majors interested in similar work.
The Agency is a two-semester-long class, which gives students more time to connect with and work on their projects.
According to the students currently working for The Agency, the first semester was spent researching the Strand’s history for their clients, and in the second semester, students started publishing their researched blogs and newsletters to show the public the current situation.
The students said this project was interesting to do, as they learned new facts about historical buildings and people.