Fire consumes a piece of local history

A New Tazewell landmark was destroyed by a fire that began the night of April 12 and continued into the next day.

The Star Theatre held many memories for those who grew up in Claiborne County and the surrounding area. It held a lot of history — A June 4, 1940 issue of the Middlesboro Daily News holds an advertisement for a showing of “Gone With The Wind” at the Star.

The building’s latest owners, Todd and Pam Ensor, had a goal to renovate it for use as a music and entertainment venue to honor its legacy, according to a previous Claiborne Progress report. At the time of the fire, there were two apartments and one landlord’s residence in it and some of the building was being used for storage.

According to reports from the scene, an electrical malfunction appeared to be the cause of the fire — although that was unconfirmed at press time.

The three families displaced by the fire were uninjured, according to reports, but some pets were lost. Donations are being taken for some of the families at Sandra Academy of Salon Services, Inc. in New Tazewell.

Numerous first responders were on scene, including Tazewell-New Tazewell Fire Department, Springdale Volunteer Fire Department, South Claiborne Volunteer Fire Department, New Tazewell Police Department and the Maynardville Fire Department.

A part of cinema history was held in that building.

Local businessmen Mike Campbell and Neal Melton decided to reopen the old Star Theatre on Main Street in New Tazewell in 1982. According to a 1995 article at latimes.com, the Star reopened with “E.T.” “Patrons were lined up around the corner for weeks. By 1989, Campbell’s company, Premiere Cinemas, had 25 theaters in five states,” it states.

Later, Campbell and Melton sold the company to Cinemark for $21 million, took three or four weeks off and started Regal Cinema.

Regal Entertainment Group grew into one of the largest movie entertainment businesses in the world before it was sold to United-Kingdom based Cineworld Group late last year. At the time of the sale, Regal operated more than 7,300 screens at 561 locations in 43 states and several territories, according to a usatoday.com article.