Harbor Theater projects mid-September reopening

Mon, 08/09/2021 - 10:30am

    Soon the marquee above Harbor Theater will be advertising the first film to screen since mid-March 2020: “On Broadway.” Plans are set for reopening on or around Sept. 17. The date will depend on the completion of all renovations, begun late last spring when COVID-19 took center stage

    In July 2020, the state-mandated checklist required addressing air quality. A new filtration system circulates fresh air in and out of the theater 2.6 times per hour. 

    MERV 13 filters bought for the recirculating system have not been used. Instead, the theater has gone with total circulation of the air; an economizer has been attached to the air conditioning and heating unit on the roof, allowing for a continual flow of fresh air.

    “We are only open four hours every 24 hours. The other 20 hours, we can have as much air coming in and have complete fresh air during the hours we’re open,” said Board President Hamilton Meserve. “The other thing we learned is you can get carbon dioxide detectors to monitor the air quality. The main thing is we will have fresh air quality.”

    The lobby now has recessed lighting and the walls are painted dark blue, but even more dramatic is the new, larger concessions counter. A small office was removed to provide more room for concessions and ticket sales. Tickets will be bought at the same time as snacks and beverages are ordered. Drinks are self-serve. And there’s a new popcorn machine!

    The new computerized ticket system tabulates all of the sales – no more counting by hand. A new stairway leads to the projection room.

    In the auditorium space, the curtains on the side walls have been permanently removed and the walls painted the same shade of blue. Later in August, when the fireproof, black acoustical tiles and panels arrive, they will be mounted on the walls, improving sound quality.

    The Meserves said two foundations funded the lobby and concessions/tickets renovations. And an anonymous donor covered the acoustical redo. All told, they estimated between $30,000 and $40,000 was needed for the projects.

    The Meserves said no annual giving money was used.

    The documentary, “On Broadway” is a tribute to this famed area of New York City from its beginnings to the star-studded shows through the decades. The film includes interviews with Helen Mirren, Alec Baldwin and others, and has some of the music and songs that have filled Broadway’s theaters.

    From Broadway, audiences will travel to France for “Truffle Hunters” about a small group of elderly men who go out at night in search of the rare white Alba truffle.

    In October, get ready for The Hitchcock Festival. Films from the Master of Suspense catalog will see Jimmy Stewart back on the big screen in “North By Northwest” and “Vertigo” with glamorous co-stars Eva Marie Saint and Kim Novak. And probably “Rear Window” and “Strangers On A Train” will play.

    The new James Bond movie is planned for later that month or early November. November through March, the Exhibition On Screen series returns with six films featuring current and recent art exhibits in major museums around the world. The first two artists are Degas in January and, in February, Michelangelo. This art series will be shown on the third Fridays of November through May at 2 p.m.

    In December, Lady Gaga and Adam Driver star in “House of Gucci,” directed by Ridley Scott. And Harbor Theater fans will be delighted to know a gala fashion show is in the planning stages for this one.

    “We’d like to have the theater used for as many things as possible – lectures, nonprofits, and we have talked to Emily Mirabile about doing things with the kids in here,” Helen said. “And we have a portable stage now that they could use.”

    To that end, and possible other live performances, the two short rows of five seats on either side of the aisle will be removed. This will bring the theater’s capacity to 174.

    Recalling June 2017, when Friends of the Harbor Theater announced its intention to buy the theater and begin operating it in September, Ham said, “We said we would try this; wondering if the community would respond, that was the original gamble, and boy have they responded. I think part of it … we lost the hospital, the summer theater, the football at the school … and I think people said ‘We’re not going to lose this too.’ And I, we, just can’t be thankful enough.”

    The Harbor Theater board has shown its gratitude for the community’s support and patience, by showing classic films drive-in style. The movies are projected onto a 17’ x 30’ pop-up screen.

    In 2020, locations for three classic 80s flicks were Newagen Seaside Inn, Linekin Bay Resort and the Meadow Mall parking lot. Theater Board member Scott Larson made all of the arrangements and offered up two of his properties as locations. In 2020, one show was set up to be watched on the water – and many boaters anchored for a few hours. All of this was thanks to an anonymous donor and community member last year and this. The drive-in is back this year and is drawing even larger crowds. At the recent screening of “Ghostbusters,” Helen thought there were 185-200 people in the Mall parking lot. Outside the theater, popcorn and candy is sold. The drive-ins have also brought a little extra business to Boothbay House of Pizza and Downeast Ice Cream.

    “People just love it,” Helen said. “They come in cars, pickup trucks with mattresses in back, they bring outdoor chairs, everyone has a great time. One of the guys working concessions outside the theater said he’d never been to a drive-in before, and he loved it!”

    Monday, Aug. 9, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”  was set for the third try; Wednesday, Aug. 25 is “Shrek,” for the boaters at Linekin Bay Resort; and Thursday, Aug. 26 is “Back to the Future” on the lawn at Newagen Seaside Inn.

    In the midst of all this renovation, the Delta variant of COVID-19 arrived and, as of Aug. 6, Maine Center for Disease Control, had added Lincoln County to its list of ones with substantial spread of the variant. In response, Harbor Theater will require everyone to wear masks whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. The theater will be thoroughly cleaned between screenings; the restrooms, before and during. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up in the lobby. Helen said the theater will be adhering to all COVID protocols as they are issued by the state.

    “We are very concerned about public health and what role the theater plays,” Ham said. “That has to be balanced against the eagerness and the patience of the community.”

    The theater, at 185 Townsend Ave. in Boothbay Harbor, will be closed Monday and Tuesday. New movies will open on Fridays and also run Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.