After 42 years of showing movies and making popcorn, Star Theatre owners Jack Soronen and Jeanne Mozier are retiring.
They have sold the iconic Berkeley Springs movie house to Morgan County Commissioner Sean Forney and his wife Jackie Forney.
The Forney’s first weekend movie will be Alita: Battle Angel on April 5-7.
“We all wanted the transition to be seamless,” said Mozier. The rest of April is
also booked with something for all parts of the local audience including Captain
“We’re pleased that Sean and Jackie want to keep the Star much the way it is,” said
Mozier. “When Sean said they wanted to be the next Jack and Jeanne, we knew we
found the right owners.”
Forneys will be only the fourth owners in the century-old building on a main corner
in the historic downtown.
“We appreciate the historic responsibility,” said Sean.
Built originally by the Johnson family as a car storage garage in 1916, the brick structure was turned into a movie theater in 1928.
Several operators leased the business over the years and in 1949, the Alpine chain took it
over, added the marquee and undertook much of the décor that remains.
Mozier and Soronen bought the theater from Evelyn Lynn in 1977 changing the name to the Star.
The theatre is listed on the WV Historic Theater Tour.
“We love the vintage look,” said Sean Forney “and hope to enhance it in the future.”
Sean was adamant that he and Jackie plan to continue the Star Theatre as a
family-friendly and affordable movie house.
They also have long term plans that will add occasional special events including live concerts.
The Forney’s said they are dedicated to keep the Star’s famous popcorn with real butter.
“Jeanne has emphasized how important the popcorn and the amazing machine are
to the Star’s success,” said Jackie who is taking over the popcorn-making task.
A veterinary technician now on break as a stay-at-home mom with three children, Jackie thinks the happiest outcome is that her goats and chickens love the leftover popcorn.
Both Sean and Jackie are looking forward to working the Star as a family. “It’s great
that Sean and I can do something together,” said Jackie, “and that our kids can grow
up as part of a family business.”
Sean and Jackie also own an insurance agency and several clusters of storage units.
Sean was recently elected to the Morgan County Commission.
Mozier said that Mary Hott of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center was “extremely helpful in shepherding the sale.”
Hott and both couples agree with the research that shows keeping local movie theaters open is an essential part of an economically healthy small town.
“We’re especially pleased to see the Star Theatre continuing as an arts-based anchor business in the historic downtown of Berkeley Springs,” said Hott.
“The biggest question we get is what are Jack and I going to do now,” said Mozier.
“We’re not leaving town but we will be exploring what other people do on weekends besides going to a movie at the Star.”
Mozier is a longtime promoter of tourism, local history and the arts in Berkeley Springs. She plans to continue all those activities as well as her travel writing.
“Now we can travel more than two or three days mid week,” Mozier said.