THE 1970s — The Casino Theatre building was purchased in 1975 by three local couples: George & Sheila Litz of Cresco, and two couples from Pocono Farms, Victor & Diane Genco and John & Ruth Hildebrand. The three families formed a business entity called LIGEND, Inc., from the letters of their last names, and incorporated it with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 12, 1975.
The families soon got busy fixing up and modernizing the vintage structure.
"It was a very old, grand building with a lot of character to it," George Litz recalls.
The old place reopened for new business on April 4, 1975, with the addition of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor called the Village Malt Shoppe, with 20 flavors of ice cream. The new decor featured paneling with an old-fashioned newspaper design, along with crisp white curtains and Tiffany-style lamps. The building was also home to two other LIGEND businesses: the Needles N' Things sewing and craft shop and the Early American Gift Shop.
The single 426-seat Casino movie theater reopened with a showing of the classic "Gone With the Wind."
Hot time at the old Casino
Less than a year after the grand reopening, disaster struck. On March 11, 1976, the renovated Casino Theatre and neighboring businesses burned to the ground. Operated as a summer business, the movie theater and malt shop were closed for the season at the time. The building had been broken into several times over the winter, fueling speculation about the cause of the fire.
The Casino had been scheduled to reopen for the season on April 26 with the movie musical "1776" in honor of the national bicentennial, and the local bicentennial committee had been planning to sell tickets to the show to raise money for a Fourth of July parade.
But it was not to be. Two hours after the first firefighters arrived at the scene, only the brick facade of the old wooden building remained.
A new building was quickly planned. "We rebuilt it the same year," George Litz said. "Of course, we made it much smaller. At that time, it was strictly a summer operation."
The all-new Casino
The new building opened just four months later — July 4, 1976 — with a new single-screen movie theater and new ice cream parlor. The first movie to be shown was the Neil Simon comedy "The Sunshine Boys," with George Burns and Walter Matthau. If there was any good news to be had after the disastrous blaze, it was that the new theater could be built with a slanted floor, allowing a modern movie-going experience instead of the neck-craning involved when watching a film from the flat floor of the old dance hall.
Within just a few years, the Litzes bought out their partners and began expanding the operation. Today, after more than 30 years, the business is still owned and operated by the Litz family, and the Casino is in its second generation of family management. (With the third generation often employed there.)
Over the years, the Litzes added a kitchen, miniature golf course and a game room targeted at pre-teens and younger, with prize redemptions. "What we wanted to do is make it a multiple entertainment center," George says. The size of the Village Malt Shoppe eventually doubled. The 1950s theme of the decor dates to 2004, when a gift shop featuring nostalgia and retro items was added.