The Harbor Theatre Is Closing 9/4/2017
Closing Letter-Final Draft
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The Harbor Theatre Is Closing Next Year
I opened The Harbor Theatre on 8/14/2002, financed by a second mortgage on my house. Over the past fifteen years, I have faced on-going challenges to keep this 182 seat theatre open year round. In each case, thanks to community support, we’ve been able to solve problems together and move forward. The Harbor Theatre has truly been a collaborative labor of love.
Now, I’m sorry to say, the mall will not renew the theatre’s lease next year, so September 4th, 2017, will probably be The Harbor Theatre’s last picture show.
Many individuals and organizations have made it possible for The Harbor Theatre to exist in spite of an off-season population 2/3s smaller than what is normally required to operate a successful movie theatre. Some of the “angels” include: The theatre’s original landlord, Gardineer Savings Institution who lowered my rent so I would be able to stay open year-round, and Friends of The Harbor Theatre, a 501c3, formed in 2004 to assist the theatre. They helped me in many ways, including the donation of newer seats and state-of-the-art movie screen, running a popular film series and a high school film making program (The Friends group has been in hiatus since 2011).
When the film industry required the theatre to convert to new digital technology or close in 2012, the community rallied and donated the money so the theatre could make the digital conversion.
Over the years, many local businesses have supported the theatre by advertising on-screen, and at one time or another, over 250 people have become members of The Harbor Theatre.
I’ve tried to repay all of the community support by making The Harbor Theatre safe, technically excellent, family friendly, and responsive to community needs. We’ve presented many premieres, “Meet the Director” events, numerous children’s birthday parties, summer camp shows and much much more. I’m proud to have carried-on the great movie theatre traditions that I learned from “old-timers” who worked during “the golden age” in the 40’s & 50’s. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past fifteen years on an extremely limited budget.
When the theatre’s current lease ends on 9/30/17 lease terms will change: the rent will increase significantly and the mall owner has said he will not renew the theatre’s lease in my name. To be sustainable, the theatre has always required outside subsidy. To date, below market rent, support from the “Friends” organization, sale of memberships and advertising has provided that support. With the rent increasing dramatically, the current arrangement just will not work going forward.
Does this community want a local theater enough to build one as a non-profit institution? If so, who will lead the charge? A new theatre could serve as a community performing arts center as well as a larger studio for Boothbay Community TV. Are there significant donors out there who would support this effort? Will it be best to stay in the Mall or try to build something entirely new? My advisors and I have many ideas about how one might move forward – what others have done in similar situations — but we are unsure how to proceed. This letter is intended to begin a conversation in the community on this subject.
In the meantime, “the show must go on”- The Harbor Theatre will remain open thru Labor Day weekend, 2017, so there’s still time to become a member, run a screen ad or just come in and enjoy a movie. I look forward to responses to this letter and hope that big screen cinema can be part of the Boothbay Region experience for years to come.
Owner of The Harbor Theatre