Heralding the "finest theatre ever built," Harry, Jack and Albert Warner opened Warner Theatre on May 14, 1931 as a memorial to their brother Sam, who had died in 1927. Youngstown, Ohio, was chosen because it was their childhood home. In 1920 the four Warner Brothers moved to California and established the Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc., one of the giants of the motion picture industry.
Designed by the architects Rapp and Rapp, the theatre was built by a local contractor, the Heller-Murray Construct-ion Company, at a cost of 1.5 million dollars. The balcony featured canti-levered construction to ensure perfect sight lines. Dressing rooms, backstage lounges, and scenery rooms comprised some of the 114 rooms located on the five levels.
The theatre flourished in the 30's, 40's and early 50's, but by 1968 the declining movie business forced its closing. The last movie shown was "Bonnie and Clyde." The theatre was scheduled for demolition, and an auction to sell "Paintings, bronzes, art objects, fixtures, screen, chandeliers, air-conditioning units, etc." was scheduled for Saturday, September 21, 1968. In the meantime the Youngstown Symphony Society attempted to purchase the building, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming. The destruction of the former movie palace became more imminent when a verbal lease was negotiated with a Cleveland parking lot company. On September 18, 1968, Judge D. Barry Dickson, President of the Symphony Society, announced that local residents Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Powers had stepped forward with the necessary $250,000 to save the theatre. After some hasty maneuvers, the dismantling of the theatre was halted, the lease cancelled, and the Society acquired title. Plans were then made for an intensive campaign to get public support for the renovation.
In January of 1969 the restoration began. With great care and thoroughness, the resources of the entire community were enlisted to rebuild the Warner. Broken seats, worn-out carpet and the accumulated grime of thirty odd years were removed to reveal a structurally sound and amazingly undamaged building. Sadly, most of the plush draperies simply fell apart as they were removed for cleaning; yet, the beautiful wood inlays, the imported marble, the mosaic tile work, and the ornate fixtures remained intact.
On September 20, 1969, the Symphony Center/Edward W. Powers Auditorium opened with a gala perform-ance of "Die Fledermaus," conducted by Maestro Franz Bibo. With this opening, the Youngstown Symphony Society followed the St. Louis Symphony and became the second musical organization in America to renovate a former movie house for concert use. Thus, Youngstown became the first metropolitan symphony of its size to own its own performing center with a seating capacity of 2,300.
In 2000, a new East Wing was added, giving the Symphony a music library and administrative office, as well as an elevator and equipment that brought Powers up to standard in handicap accessibility. The DeBartolo and Ford Families provided money to construct an adjacent 600-seat auditorium recital hall on the west side of the Powers Auditorium. The whole complex is now known as the De Yor Performing Art Center.
The Warner Theater is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.