Belfast Colonial Theater announces pause in operations effective Sept. 18

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 8:15pm

    The Colonial Theatre is announcing a pause in operations effective September 18 while the search and transition to new owners go forward. From September 19, 2022 until new owners take over the theatre will not host live events or show movies.

    A few years ago the Colonial Theatre began looking for the next generation of owner operators to continue a 110 year legacy of movies, live events, and thriving at the center of a vibrant community.          

    While the pandemic rocked the theatre and threatened the theatre’s very existence we survived and carried on with tenacious leadership and a lot of support from our community and state and federal programs. While we were closed for 15 months from March 2020 to June of 2021, we reopened to great community support. Then along came Delta and Omicron. And we weathered those storms staying open through it all.

    Throughout the fall, winter, and spring we maintained a varied schedule of movies and live events with comedy, literary, art, social and environmental issues, music, speakers, and events. Finally, we emerged from the pandemic with smash record-breaking attendance for live events such as the Hot Suppers band and films such as Maverick: Top Gun, Minions, Elvis, and more. People are lining up and going to the Colonial Theatre again.

    Our plan originally was to find the new owner operator and then retire. But time has marched on and we still want to retire so instead of selling and then retiring we are going to retire and then find our next operator owners. Over the last years we have had interested parties and they still are. Our hope is that they will find the renewed energy to reach out for the baton.

    In 1995 Therese Bagnardi and Mike Hurley took over from the Kurson family who owned the Colonial Theatre for decades. John Grant, and the Grant family had run the theatre for more than 50 years and the Grant’s too were ready to hand off to the next generation.

    With energy and panache, we grabbed the baton and the Colonial Theatre was restored and revitalized from top to bottom, updated and modernized, we restored the original stage and created Dreamland with its’ balcony and proscenium arch into the premier house for iconic films like Titanic, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Saving Private Ryan. New seating happened! Celebrating our 100 years centennial we converted from 35 MM to digital projection and made many more changes. We rescued our elephant Hawthorne and put her on the roof! It’s been tremendous fun. Today the Colonial Theatre, like Belfast, is poised for change. The Colonial Theatre baton is ready to be handed to the next generation.

    The last 27 years have been made possible by a dedicated staff who loved their work and the millions of people we have welcomed into the theatre. It has been wonderful and an honor to work with them all. There have been far too many to mention personally but two must be noted. Last year we reopened with a first ever Operations Manager bringing in Belfast native Kyle Walton who had grown up at the movies as a customer, a popcorn kid, and more. No one else could have succeeded as Kyle has in bringing a new level of management to the Colonial Theatre. In 1995 we inherited Jon Tibbets when we took over the theatre, he is our facilities master and an unsurpassed treasure. Our staff, all of them, have made theatregoers comfortable and safe with a professional demeanor and a commitment to exhibition.

    One thing we learned in the very beginning: Not everyone goes to the movies. About 50% of all people never go. About 30 % go to two or three films a year. The rest go all the time. We have been so blessed with our theatregoers. From little kids to older folks, rambunctious kids, first dates, date night, girls nights, guys nights (for different movies) serious film fans, dedicated art film lovers, people of all ages who always showed up in a blizzard. And they all have one thing in common. They came ready to suspend disbelief, to be told a story, and they came to the right place. Yes; they’ll have to take a break for a while from movies on our big screens but not for long. We loved caring and presenting films for our patrons. 

    Then there are the movies. Therese and Mike grew up at the movies and have always loved going to the movies even as tastes expanded with age. Movies are the greatest story telling medium ever invented. All of TV, the entire complicated world of small screens, is just a derivative spin off. Human beings have always gathered and asked “tell us a story.” Perhaps it was about a great battle, a lost or found love, persecution, triumph, tragedy, heartbreak, friendship, endurance, honor, redemption. Movies still give us this every day. For we who love reading and the art of story telling; caretaking the Colonial Theatre, and curating films for 27 years has been a joy and an honor.

    The Colonial Theatre has been at the heart of Belfast for 110 years. It will continue to be in the future. We know there will be a next act soon and we’re excited to see the new vision. Belfast is a thriving vibrant city on the move, and Belfast can count on the Colonial Theatre being part of its’ future.

    What’s next for the Colonial Theatre? We are planning a 10 day run of free movies to celebrate our + 27 years of welcoming Belfast, our area, and everyone near and far into our theatre, we still have another event or two to produce. From September 9 to September 18th watch for a huge schedule of free movies. After that we’ll straighten and clean up and get the place ready for the next generation. After 27 years we are looking forward to handing over the baton to the next generation of caretakers. Thanks for sharing all the memories.  

    FMI: Michael Hurley; 207-323-0881