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we'd love to hear it! send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com. [ film projector clicking, piano playing dramatic music ] >> announcer: a century-old movie theater, the passion of a small-town businessman. >> his dying words were, "angela, don't let the theater go." >> announcer: but from here to eternity could be a long haul. >> anything that could go wrong went wrong. >> announcer: are the final credits about to roll? >> did he know that you would step up? >> i didn't get to tell him. [ voice breaking ] i'm sorry. >> announcer: or will there be an encore performance? >> do you ever think to yourself, "i wish my grandfather would have just left me the house?" >> i wish that so many times more than you know. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ]
>> i'm jamie colby, and today i'm driving along the mighty susquehanna river that winds its way through central pennsylvania. i'm on my way to berwick, population 11,000, a tough old manufacturing town that built stuart tanks during world war ii. today it's best known for its wise potato chip factory and also its nuclear power plant. this strange inheritance is about another smaller business -- one that goes to the heart and soul of cities like berwick all across america. i'm angela diaugustine, and in july of 2013, when my father passed away, he left us an unusual inheritance that none of us knew what to do with at the time. ♪ >> this weathered movie theater looks like the sort of place you might pass and think, "how does
a business like this even make it in today's world?" angela not only inherited the theater, but, like most berwick residents, she spent a bit of time here, especially as a teenager. >> i remember once when i came to the movies here, it was "hush...hush, sweet charlotte" with bette davis. there's one scene where her hand gets chopped off, and it was so scary to me. i slept with my hands tucked under the covers. [ laughs ] >> everyone seems to have a story about this theater, so whether it's the first kiss, the first date, those memories hold a special place in all of our hearts. >> i'm told berwick native ginny crake knows the history of the place as well as anyone. she meets me in the lobby. >> welcome to berwick! >> i haven't seen a movie for $4 forever. >> [ laughs ] well, it's certainly unique for our town. >> wow. >> in a community, you need a place that creates culture and creates interaction with your community members, and this is
what it is. this is our downtown mainstay. >> just walking inside is a blast from the past. this concession stand harkens back to the days before large multiplexes, and so do the prices. how many years has this theater been here? >> well, it was built in 1868. it was an opera house. it was a playhouse. it has the original vaudeville stage. >> in the 1920s, it joined the silent-movie era, and in the '30s, it survived a fire and reopened as the strand. angela's family, the diaugustines, have been here almost as long as the movie theater. like many who arrived in the town for factory jobs, they were immigrants -- from silvi marina, italy. vincent diaugustine was born in berwick in 1924. >> his mother was a professional woman. she had a hairdressing salon. across the street was a tailor, and she sent him over to help the tailor, and that tailor taught him his trade.
>> after pearl harbor, the 18-year-old vincent enlists in the marines. his needle skills catch the attention of the top brass. he serves in europe, tailoring uniforms for high-ranking officers. during the winter of 1944, vincent is on leave back in berwick and runs in to a former high-school classmate, lucille zapatore. he takes her on a date -- where else but the strand? >> when they drove home, it was a little cold out, and the windows were a little foggy, and he wrote in the steam, "i'm going to marry you." >> in 1947, vincent's prediction comes true. the couple go on to have four children -- frank, angela, vincent jr., and joseph. during the 1950s, it's a good time to raise a family in berwick. you could say it's a wonderful life. >> the old cliché that you never had to lock your doors was true, and we used to ride our bikes from morning until it was time to go to bed. >> like many industrial towns of
the era, berwick is booming. american car and foundry alone employs 9,000 people, building railroad cars. vincent, a classic go-getter, sets up his own tailor shop on front street. >> my father's a workaholic, and he's a perfectionist. he was very successful because he just was determined to be successful. >> from tailoring men's suits to selling them, vincent's reputation spreads beyond his corner store. >> he had people from all over come to buy the suits from him because no one else could fit suits like my father could. >> through the '60s and early '70s, vincent is in his element. he's confident in the future and borrows money to expand. in fact, he borrows more than he should. >> he started to put women's clothing in, and then when another store became available, he bought that one, as well, and opened up and made a bigger women's shop. >> vincent becomes so used to things booming that he's slow to
react when factories like american car and foundry shut down and big new malls start luring shoppers away from the old downtown. >> my father just kept trying to reinvent himself. he was doing other things to keep the business successful -- selling slot machines, jukeboxes, antique guns. anything he could, he was just trying to keep afloat. >> in 1974, vincent learns that the owner of the former strand, now called the berwick movie theater, has fallen on hard times and wants to sell. at the age of 50, vincent buys it for $30,000. always the consummate host, mr. diaugustine rules the roost with his teenage moviegoers. >> i remember when people got a little rowdy, vince would come around and tell us all to be quiet, but you always knew that he was there watching you and caring for you, and, as a kid, you respected that. >> he had a passion for this movie theater. he loved seeing the people come.
he greeted everyone. i know there were some people that couldn't afford the tickets, and he would, like, shuffle them in. >> more than 20 years pass, full of films like "star wars" and "titanic," until, in 1997, the manager at the berwick theater up and leaves and opens one of the big multiplex theaters -- a double cross! but vincent decides, at the age of 73, what the heck? he'll run it himself. >> my father would be popping popcorn for the evening, and when the reel broke, he was up there splicing the film back together, and after the movie was over, he was with the broom, sweeping up droppings of popcorn. >> by 2007, vincent is 83 years old, and his businesses, including the berwick, haven't made money in years. he has $400,000 in debt and could lose everything. he has nowhere else to turn when he appeals to his daughter, angela, now 55 and an account manager for a fragrance company,
to bail him out. >> so, we were in a dilemma. he wasn't making a go of it. >> is it lights out at the berwick theater? that's next. >> announcer: but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question. the answer in a moment. it's easy to think that all money managers are pretty much the same. but while some push high commission investment products, fisher investments avoids them. some advisers have hidden and layered fees. fisher investments never does. and while some advisers are happy to earn commissions from you whether you do well or not, fisher investments fees are structured so we do better when you do better. maybe that's why most of our clients come from other money managers. fisher investments. clearly better money management. copdso to breathe better,athe.
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>> announcer: the nickelodeon opened there on june 19, 1905. ♪ >> in 2007, it looks as if all the work 83-year old vincent diaugustine has invested over a 60-year career is about to be lost to crushing debt. then his daughter, angela, intervenes. she buys dad's buildings but leaves him full ownership of his businesses, including the berwick theater. >> i pitched in to help financially because he absolutely would not hear of closing any of his businesses. >> knowing he has a reprieve, vincent starts showing granddaughter renee how to run the berwick alongside him. renee already has a good association with the family heirloom, starting as a youngster. what do you remember about this theater when you were growing up? >> i remember being allowed to pour the soda, and i was so
excited 'cause that was my first real job. >> did you ever come here on a date? >> i did when i was younger. my first date was here. his name was ryan cordingly. i had a huge crush on him. he was my first boyfriend, too. >> vincent continues to inject his trademark enthusiasm into running four businesses, even at the age of 89. then, in january of 2013, he suffers a devastating stroke. >> he thought that he was gonna run the theater forever. he wouldn't just say, "renee, can you run things?" he asked me, you know, "what am i gonna do? how am i going to keep this place open?" >> his dying words were, "angela, don't let the theater go." >> on july 8, 2013, vincent slips away. but the question remains -- who's going to honor vincent's dying wish? all eyes look to renee. i'm 23, just out of college, and right before i graduated, i remember saying that i really just wanted to do something
meaningful. >> only days after her grandfather's death, renee decides to take on the challenge of running the berwick. >> did he know that you would step up? >> i didn't get to tell him. um... [ voice breaking ] i'm sorry. >> at vincent's wake, the community flocks to pay its respects. >> a boy came by, and he just said, "your father helped me, and i wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for your father." another younger boy used to come here, and my father used to give him all the history of the war, and he loved my father so much that he wanted to be sure to come to the viewing. >> soon renee surveys the mammoth task before her. the theater hasn't been updated since 1969. moviegoers bring pillows because the seats are so uncomfortable. the curtains are tatty. and that's just the start with this money pit. >> we need a digital projector, which means that we would need a
$70,000-plus upgrade. >> today only a fraction of theaters, most of them single screens like the berwick, have celluloid film projectors. more than 80% are digital. and on that note, i can't resist the opportunity for a last look at a relic of the 20th century. [ film projector clicking ] >> hi. >> hey, how are you? i'm jamie. >> good. i'm kim. i'm the film girl. >> film girl? love it! this is tonight's feature? >> yes, this is our full-length feature, about an hour and a half. >> how does this contraption even work? >> this is the brain... and it comes through here... and straight up... and over...to that side. >> it's a new film, but are movie companies making film this way? >> they are not. that is why we have to go digital, because our choices are getting slimmer and slimmer. >> motor up. [ film projector clicking ] we have a movie! instead of these huge reels,
movies are now being shown electronically and stored on a high-capacity hard drive. but at $4 a pop at the berwick, the $70,000 required for a new digital system feels like mission impossible. renee tries one fundraising event after another. >> we've had poster sales to raise money. we've done other small things. some things have been very successful. some things haven't. we did an indiegogo fundraiser, but it takes a lot of effort. >> in just a few months, renee manages to drum up $6,000 and, just as quickly, spends it on repairs. >> anything that could go wrong went wrong. our furnace broke, so that was an immediate $500 right off the bat. >> then, in october 2013, the berwick theater has a real disaster. this one's a doozy. what was happening -- people falling out of the theater? >> some people were passing out. it was really scary. >> that's next.
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the answer is "b," "star wars: the phantom menace," in 1999. >> renee diaugustine-bower takes over running the movie theater that her grandfather, vincent, had owned for more than 40 years in berwick, pennsylvania. she's trying to do him proud, but that's not easy. first, there are a series of small repairs, including to an old jalopy of a furnace.
then comes a cold night in october 2013, during the 7:00 p.m. showing of "despicable me 2," that really tests her mettle. >> i got a phone call from one of the girls saying that people are acting weird. we found out that there was a carbon-monoxide issue. >> it turns out the berwick did not have carbon-monoxide detectors. no law required the theater to have them, so they were never installed. and the cause of the accident -- pigeons had gotten trapped in a furnace pipe. >> my husband actually made it down here before i did, and i came right down, as well, and he had already done a quick sweep of the premises, and he about passed out, so i was like, "oh, my gosh! what is happening?" i was terrified. >> what was happening -- people falling out of the theater? >> some people had carbon-monoxide poisoning, and they were passing out. i immediately got on facebook and urged everyone that was there that night to go to the hospital. but it was really scary.
>> anyone sue? >> we did have to pay some people's medical bills. some people were upset with me, rightfully so. if i had a kid and they got carbon-monoxide poisoning, i would be upset, too. >> it's a huge relief when none of the 17 people taken to the hospital is seriously injured. the flue is cleaned out and the furnace pipe replaced. but it's a lesson for 23-year-old renee in crisis management. >> did you lose business? >> i don't think so. we put in our detectors everywhere, and i showed everybody what we did. it actually kind of raised awareness in the community. my grandfather had to have been with us for that, because it sounds so terrible, and it was, but it just somehow turned out okay. >> after being continually sidetracked, renee finally sets her sights on the berwick going digital. it's the only way to keep the movies playing in downtown berwick and honor her grandfather's dying wish. she looks at getting a
small-business loan, but the numbers don't add up. without that cash injection, the berwick theater could be just another small-town, small-business casualty. do you ever think to yourself, "i wish my grandfather would have just left me the house?" >> i wish that so many times more than you know. >> what if you don't make it? >> failure isn't in my vocabulary, and it's just not an option. find out if that's true, next on "strange inheritance." ♪
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it looks, quite simply, like a horror show. luckily, there's a fairy godmother waiting in the wings. it turns out to be a long-time berwick theater patron. remember ginny crake? she's still in town and now works at berwick's united way. she suggests the berwick go non-profit. that would allow renee to solicit charitable contributions to help fund the digital transition. >> it became pretty clear that local businesses couldn't help them unless they became a non-profit. >> ginny introduces renee to local business leaders equally dedicated to revitalizing downtown berwick. they agree to join the theater's board if it goes non-profit and becomes what the irs calls a 501(c)(3). but even that could take two years, and the theater's coffers are running low. united way comes up with a stopgap solution. >> the united way is allowing them to accept donations on behalf of the theater under our non-profit umbrella so that
people can make donations now. >> it opens the door to so many more opportunities for us. we don't have a hub for the arts, something for kids to do, something for families to do. we want to cover all the bases. the digital switch is the number-one thing on our list, but it's just part of our whole entire goal. ♪ >> with great joy and fanfare, on july 19, 2014, renee and her family celebrate the berwick's new non-profit status and its long-time owner, vincent diaugustine. >> we've kind of designed this day to remember him and dedicate this place to him but also to let everyone know that the berwick theater is about to undergo some major changes and that it's a new chapter. >> it's also a great night for me to try my hand as an entrepreneur. okay. thank you very much. enjoy the show! tonight would have been vincent's 90th birthday. ooh! maybe i'll even get my name on the marquee! that'll be $4, please. thank you very much.
what a great crowd! what's your favorite candy? sour patch kids? i have sour patch kids, and today, it's on me. it may take a little longer than usual, folks. it's my first night on the job. i have never worked at the movie theater before. i realize it's no cinch to run your own movie theater. you, like, relax. i see you not even helping out here. [ laughter ] here are these, okay? enjoy it. >> thank you. >> pretty soon, it's all lights, camera, and action. >> so, we're having a dedication, and we're gonna be dedicating the theater to my grandfather. >> inside, renee holds her own as she introduces the berwick's new board of directors. >> i'd like to introduce myself not only as renee diaugustine-bower, the granddaughter of vincent diaugustine, but also the executive director of the berwick theater. >> what's your approach to bringing the theater back to life? >> now i have my dream team, which is the board. we want that downtown feeling
back. >> i think my father's probably smiling from ear to ear, and i think he's very happy and very proud of all of us. and guess what? the dream team comes through, raising the money for the digital transformation of the berwick. in august 2016, it re-opens as a digital theater. their first feature: "finding dory." where there's a will, there's a way. >> i'm pretty sure with the town's support and renee's sheer determination, the berwick theater is going to be just fine. in fact, becoming a non-profit might be just the ticket. and i did finally get my name in lights... but i'm still stuck working the ticket counter. i'm jamie colby, and i hope you enjoyed this red-carpet edition of "strange inheritance." and remember -- you can't take it with you. do you have a "strange inheritance" story
you'd like to share with us? we'd love to hear it! send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com. >> a rock 'n' roll legend. >> the crazy thing about roy orbison is, from 1959 to 1964, he had 21 top 40 hits. >> he dies too soon, with three young sons. >> he had secretly always wanted us to be musicians, but he wasn't gonna push. >> does he send them on a musical mission from beyond the grave? >> and then i kind of rubbed my eyes, and then looked at this. >> he said, "i've got this cassette of this song that nobody has heard before." >> will this strange inheritance bring roy and his boys together again? >> had you always dreamt of playing with your dad? >> always, yes. >> [ chuckles ] mercy! [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ]