Harbor Theater, a success story, as many cinemas close
Following last week’s announcement that Regal Theaters are closing nationwide, including the multiplex in nearby Brunswick, many people may wonder if online streaming is going to become their only option for film entertainment. The good news, locally, is that the Harbor Theater is thriving, and there are several very good reasons why.
First, the Boothbay community, led by Helen and Ham Meserve, decided to convert the theater from a for-profit to a non-profit legal structure in 2017. As a nonprofit organization, the theater positions itself as a community resource, and its nonprofit financial model means that it relies upon donated income to balance its budget. The theater has over 350 members who make annual donations of $40 for individuals and $75 for families to be honored as contributors and receive discount tickets and special free events. Additionally, over 375 community members donate to the organization’s annual appeal. Many individuals say that even when they don’t frequently go to the movies, they support the idea that our community needs that resource available! More than 40 local businesses and organizations also recognize Harbor Theater’s significant community presence and support it through Community Partnerships and on-screen advertising.
Second, the theater used the Covid shutdown to renovate its facilities, upgrade acoustics and ventilation systems, and buy a state-of-the-art projector. All of these activities were funded by the generosity of the community.
Third, programing is not only focused on first-run movies (57 shown in 2022), but is committed to providing the community with a wide range of services including a special series of classic films and Exhibition On Screen arts films. There were 20 special events at the theater last year, ranging from dress-up receptions to Read the Book/Watch the Movie discussions, to Free Family films including a drive-in movie. The theater is also available for local families, organizations, and businesses to rent for special occasions; birthday parties are a popular activity, especially during the winter months. Two of our towns also provide local government support. The towns of Boothbay and Southport, last year, donated funds to provide four free holiday movies and free popcorn for families from all over the peninsula.
Fourth, despite higher operating costs, the theater has kept ticket prices to $8 for members and $10 for the general public.
Even if a particular movie has been shown on TV over the years, some folks find that the movie theater experience is worth the effort – especially if it is reasonably priced! Last fall, a couple of kids were caught marveling at the theater-sized popcorn machine. The looks on their faces were priceless. So, next time cabin-fever threatens, or you want a little social time with friends and family out in town, come to the movies! Enjoy one of life’s little pleasures while you support a local community resource – one that is happy to return the favor!