“As a kid your world is kinda small ... I grew up with a need for adventure, a desire for escape … and I had an unquenchable imagination … the library offered me so much early on. And when I was old enough, I could go to the movies and that’s when the world opened up to me.” - Kim Martin/Eventide Specialties, Harbor Theater board member
Most of us remember our first time at the local movie theater growing up, if you were lucky enough to have a theater in your home town. And, in many ways the experience is the same … the huge screen, dark curtains and walls, the scent of popcorn wafting through the air from the concession stand and in the auditorium as people pass by in search of the “best” seat ...You just can’t beat it.
Boothbay Harbor is one of the towns in Maine that still has an active theater. The reason: community support. The Harbor Theater has been a 501(c3) non-profit since the fall of 2017. The budget is based on 50% coming from revenue, i.e. ticket sales, memberships; and the other 50% from community support.
Theater Board President Hamilton “Ham” Meserve says the annual appeal generates 80% of the community support with the balance coming “primarily from screen ads, concessions, community partnerships, and membership fees.
“Annual appeal funds basically support the theater's operations and allow us to offer a wide range of 80 movies year-round,” Meserve said, “particularly during the 'slower" fall, winter and spring months when our market - the Boothbay peninsula, shrinks from 38,000 to 6,500. And during the last two years it kept critical staff on payroll during the COVID closure.”
Once the theater doors after 18 months due to Covid, it did so with strict policies that not only required masks, but proof of vaccination. This action proved to be significant. The action, Meserve said, encouraged the major portion of the theater’s market - seniors who wanted to go to the movies – to attend. When both requirements were removed, audience rebuilding began in earnest.
Certainly the improvements made to the theater before the September 2021 reopening, that were funded by two foundations and an anonymous donor – not annual appeal funds - played a significant supporting role in affording moviegoers the safest environment possible to take audiences to distant lands and meet extraordinary characters with their family, friends, and neighbors.
“The Annual Appeal is critical and is what has brought us operational stability since we took over the financially challenged theater in October 2017,” said Ham Meserve, “and subsequently survived through18 months of Covid closure. Without our Annual Appeal we would not be operating today.”
Martin noted the theater board members enjoy making things interesting, “Who can beat the way we do “Downton Abbey?” (fashion show/competition, champagne and yummy nibbles courtesy of Martin’s Eventide Specialties) ... Nobody! And we want to do more like that. We bring in first run movies people are interested in, there’s the Exhibition On Screen art films, the Classic Movie Club, the Members Only series … and there’s so much more we are planning and talking about.
“And that’s what our theater is – it’s yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and to move forward to tomorrow, we need help,” Martin emphasized. “We have to have the support of the viewership.”
The Harbor Theater’s annual appeal letters will be mailed in the next few weeks. The board hopes everyone will do what they can to support the Boothbay region’s local movie house.
For more information about the theater – and what’s coming up next, visit https://boothbaycinema.org.