You can’t put a price on theater

In the fall of 2012, the film “Lincoln,” with Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field, was released. Local moviegoers flocked to the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, where the building’s historic features seemed to put audiences in the right frame of mind for the period piece. Seeing it in a multiplex just wouldn’t have been the same.

But the push for going digital has owners of historic theaters in a catch 22 — invest in digital projection equipment and abandon the long-favored 35 millimeter, or get out of the business.

But Dennis Markaverich, owner of Wilton’s 100-year-old entertainment venue, doesn’t seem intimidated. He’s devoted to 35 millimeter and has decided not to give it up. At the same time, he’s raising money to cover the cost of conversion. He needs about $150,000, minus the $3,000 he’s collected in donations so far.

Putting a price on the theater’s value, both for today and historically, just isn’t possible.

Located in downtown Wilton, the theater building was erected in 1886 to serve many purposes. The Town Hall is there, and way back when, it was also where traveling entertainment troupes stopped. The year 1912 brought silent film to town, according to the theater’s online history. During World War II, the Wilton Town Hall Theatre was the place where many people got their news.

The theater has two screens, one with 250 seats and the other, with just 65, called the screening room, where vaudeville actors once changed costumes between skits. And today, movie lovers can still see silent films there accompanied by live piano music, as well as other classics and foreign films. The Wilton Town Hall Theatre is as independent as they come.

Wilton’s isn’t the only historic theater residents of the Monadnock region have rallied around recently. In the spring, another historic venue, the Peterborough Community Theatre, was raising money for digital conversion and thankfully they met their goal. And, there’s been a longtime push in Jaffrey to reopen the 1920s Park Theatre, which is now slated for demolition and rebuild. Our theaters mean a lot to us here in the Monadnock region. And after years of supporting them and relying on them for arts and entertainment outlets, this latest push for digital conversion in Wilton doesn’t seem so insurmountable. That’s the attitude Markaverich is taking.

He’s eager to see conversion happen, but he isn’t sweating it. He’s gotten by so far and plans to keep on keeping on. He’s got the right attitude, and hopefully he’ll see the same enthusiasm and community support as Peterborough and Jaffrey have for their theaters.

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