The Loews Theater was initially created by Cafaro Company owner William Cafaro to bring customers into their new shopping complex, the Eastwood Mall. It opened in 1969 and became a major entertainment destination for the Mahoning Valley and western Pennsylvania residents.
Many young people had their first dates at the theater, while others have fond memories of seeing such Hollywood blockbuster films as "The Poseidon Adventure," "Return of the Jedi," "Towering Inferno," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Animal House," and "Jaws."
"It was a special occasion to go to the theater a couple times a year and eat at the restaurant nearby, Sweet Williams," said Paul Sheehan of Vienna. He recalls seeing "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" there with his dad.
Located in the hallway between what is now Macy's and JCPenney, the Loews Theater opened on July 9, 1969. The first movie that played there was "MacKenna's Gold" with Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif, shown on a 60-foot screen.
Seating was available for 1,086 moviegoers. Each chair was widely spaced for comfort, including being able to push back. It was also air-conditioned for moviegoers' comfort.
The decor was modern, using bold colors of purple, royal blue, kelly green and aqua. Traditional theaters used red and gold colors with a heavy red curtain parting in front of the screen as the film began.
"When they first built that theater, it was a very plush place," said William Costas, who worked at Loews as a Niles High School student. "People dressed up to go to the movies," he said.
For Costas, this was a job between sports seasons. He worked during the week and on the weekends whenever he could.
"I was an usher, and we wore tuxedos," Costas said. "The theater provided them. Dressed up in a tuxedo, you feel like you're somebody important. We used to direct people to their seats. Right after we got all the people in their seats and the movie started, we would take a dustpan and broom all around the lobby and clean up anything that fell on the floor from the concession stand. Then, I would go stand in the back in the back of the theater in the event that somebody needed something or there were any problems or issues," said Costas.
For people lucky enough to work at the theater, they also got an added benefit.
"One of the reasons I thought it would be neat to work at a theater was because I would be able to see the different movies for free," Costas said. "The whole time I worked there, 'The Godfather,' was there. I started getting bored with the movie. I started to know the lines."
The Francis Ford Coppola classic was released on March 24, 1972.
By the time Mineral Ridge resident Brenda Chiclowe began working at the theater in the early '80s inside the Eastwood Mall, major changes had occurred there. It was renamed Eastwood Cinema 1 and 2. It had been separated into two theaters in the late 1970s.
Chiclowe worked at the concession stand, a perfect part-time job while she attended Liberty High School.
"We served popcorn, candy and pop," she said. "We didn't use a register. We added everything in our head. You had a cash drawer and that was it."
Just like Costas, Chiclowe had the opportunity to watch a film while she waited to clean up the theater after a showing.
"One of the big films at the time was 'An Officer and a Gentleman.' We used to watch the ending again and again when (Richard Gere) carries (Debra Winger) out of the factory," said Chiclowe.
The film came out in 1982.
Her work outfit as a concession worker was not as formal as the ushers. She wore brown pants and a top provided by the concession stand company.
Chiclowe said that theatergoers were not ushered to their seats while she worked there unless it was an extremely busy showing.
When she worked at Eastwood Cinema, a second theater - MovieWorld, with six screens - was in operation at the Great East Plaza. Eastwood Cinema showed the larger, blockbuster films.
"I remember going to see 'Star Wars' at Eastwood Cinema," said Warren native Rokey Suleman. "It played for over a year. JCPenney wasn't there yet, and I remember there were lines wrapping around the concourse. It was awesome."
"The concession stands were owned by the same company and they sometimes shared employees and sent over popcorn if one of them ran out," said Chiclowe.
She recalled that the Eastwood Cinema popcorn came pre-made in large bags, but MovieWorld made its own popcorn.
Loews Theater / Eastwood Cinema was open until the early 1990s, before bowing to competition and changing public demand for movie theaters that could be entered without walking through the mall. The space was converted to retail stores.
Though Eastwood Cinema has closed, the Eastwood Mall still offers local residents an area to see films at Regal Boulevard Cinema or second-run showings at the former MovieWorld location, now Encore Cinema, but while moviegoers can no longer shop and then get in line for a film, they do have fond memories of the time they once could.