Goal is to create community center for entertainment, education

New committee gears up to reopen Colonial Theater in Belfast

Thu, 04/27/2023 - 9:30pm

    Belfast’s Colonial Theatre has enriched the region for over 100 years. Its closure this past September prompted a group of movie-loving and community-minded residents to create the Save Our Colonial Theatre (SOCT) Steering Committee. The committee aims to turn the iconic landmark into a thriving nonprofit community center for entertainment and education.  

    “Our goal is to preserve the Colonial Theatre’s position as downtown Belfast’s entertainment locale for featuring new and classic movies, live entertainment and important civic meetings,” said Eric Buch, Steering Committee leader and Belfast resident, in a news release.

    The Colonial Theatre is an example of an early 20th Century downtown movie house that emerged to support the demand created by a new film industry.

    SOCT hopes to use the same playbook as other theatres in Maine, such as the Strand in Rockland and the Center Theater in Dover-Foxcroft, and convert to a nonprofit center. These theatres, and others like them, offer entertainment and educational and arts programming tailored to each community’s desires and needs. 

    “We visited about a dozen theaters in the Midcoast area and found their programming strategies vary greatly. Beyond first run movies and live acts, some offer theatrical events, membership, programs for teens, private rentals, even marquee rentals,” said Buch. “They make an effort to know and serve their communities and to adapt to continuing changes.”

    In order to start the necessary fundraising campaign, the SOCT committee has entered into a fiscal sponsorship arrangement with the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft, which will establish a fund dedicated to SOCT. This arrangement allows SOCT to receive donations now while awaiting approval of its application for tax exempt status. 

    “The committee will have to incorporate and then file for its nonprofit status with the IRS,” said Spencer Stephens, attorney and Steering Committee Treasurer, in the release. “The relationship with the Center Theatre will allow us to obtain funding for a formal feasibility study.” 

    First opened in April 1912, the same day the Titanic set sail, the Colonial Theatre recently celebrated 110 years of bringing the best in film and entertainment to Belfast. Today, the Art Deco design and attractive façade are watched over by Hawthorne, the Elephant, guarding the entrance from on high. Three screens offer programming variety, and the famous Dreamland also hosts concerts and exciting live performances. 

    The theatre was closed last September due to the retirement of longtime owners, Mike Hurley and Therese Bagnardi.  A new owner has not yet been found. Save Our Colonial Theatre hopes to step in and find the right mix of funding to keep the movies running and lots more programming happening for another 100 years.

    Donations for Save Our Colonial Theatre can be made by mailing a check to SOCT, c/o Spencer Stephens, Treasurer, 52 Union Street, Belfast, ME 04915. Contact Soct@colonialtheater.com for more information.