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Contractors uncover link to theater past

As bricks are knocked down and old boards pulled up during theongoing restoration project at the Haven, the historic building isyielding up some artifacts from Brookhaven’s entertainmentpast.

Workers with local contractor Paul Jackson and Sons, Inc.recently discovered an old movie advertisement crammed into thejoists in the front of the old Posey Place area while renovatingthe Haven’s façade. The hand-painted, 13-foot banner has beenoccupying the crawl space between the ceiling and the second floorfor an unknown number of years.

The banner is signed by “W. Wittmann” and advertises the movie”The Orleans Coach,” with ticket prices of 10 and 15 cents.

Brookhaven Little Theatre Publicity Chairwoman Heather Thurgoodresearched the movie and found that director Albert Capellanireleased it in France under the title “Le Courrier de Lyon” in1912. It is a silent film.

Capellani also directed turn of the century films such as “Houseof Mirth,” “Les Miserables” and “Camille.”

But Brookhaven Little Theatre President Tommy Sproles said themovie most likely didn’t come to Brookhaven until many yearslater.

“The price listed on the banner leads us to believe it’s notfrom 1912,” he said. “The price is the only thing that gives us anidea of what year’s price was appropriate for admissions. Granted,we have gone up in price…”

Sproles said a few other posters were found hiding in the samespace as the banner, but the other posters were so deterioratedthey could not be saved.

“The Orleans Coach” banner is still in one piece – kind of – butit too has felt the effects of time and moisture. It is pepperedwith holes and stains and is quite fragile.

Sproles said plans are to preserve the banner and display it inthe new lobby once façade renovations are completed. It will likelyby framed as-is.

“I can’t see trying to clean it up,” he said. “We’re just goingto have to hang it up, holes and all.”

Sproles estimated the cost of preserving the banner in a framecould cost between $1,200 and $1,400.

Save the Haven Committee Chairwoman JoAnna Sproles said thebanner is the oldest Haven artifact discovered thus far during workon the building.

“It’s the oldest example of the beginning history of thatbuilding and what it provided for the community,” she said.

The Brookhaven Little Theatre is asking that anyone who mayremember when “The Orleans Coach” was shown at the Haven or knowwho “W. Wittmann” was to contact Thurgood aththurgood@yahoo.com.

Sproles also said the group would acknowledge any contributorwho wishes to pay for the banner’s framing.

Events are picking up at the Haven as 2008 draws to a close. Therenovation of the theater’s front entrance – the second phase of amulti-year, $1 million project – is scheduled for completion withinweeks.

Work on the building should be completed and the tower signreinstalled with neon lighting by Oct. 18, when the Brookstock atthe Haven concert is held. Posters and T-shirts for the event areon sale for $20.

The BLT membership party will be held the following weekend onOct. 25.