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Peterborough Community Theatre to reopen Friday

  • The Peterborough Community Theatre marquee. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Peterborough Community Theatre marquee. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Peterborough Community Theatre marquee. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/30/2021 3:30:04 PM

The Peterborough Community Theatre will reopen for public showings on Friday, just shy of a year since the last time a recently released film was shown on the big screen.

“It’s my gut feeling. I think it’s time,” said owner Vanessa Amsbury-Bonilla.

It’s been more than 15 months since the oldest movie theater in New Hampshire was consistently screening films, as their reopening last July only lasted one week. But Amsbury-Bonilla felt comfortable making another attempt given the vaccination rate, low infection numbers and relaxed guidance surrounding COVID-19.

PCT will reopen with “Here Today” on Friday and implement the same schedule as prior to the pandemic, with showings at 3 and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

“It’s a little bit scary, but the attitude (toward the pandemic) has changed so much,” she said. “It’s just time to go back to our previous model.”

“Dream Horse” will run for one week starting July 9, followed by “Queen Bees” July 16.

Amsbury-Bonilla said to start she’s showing “mostly happy movies” and ones “that are really best seen on the big screen.”

On the other side of Temple Mountain, Wilton Town Hall Theatre owner Dennis Markaverich said he is not sure when he will resume showings.

“I’m not opening yet,” he said. “It’s better and it should get better, but I’ve decided to hold off. I’m going to stall for a while and see how it goes.”

Markaverich reopened last July 3 and made it about three weeks before entering a pause that still continues. During one of those weeks, one of the movies he was showing made a total of $89.

“It was a disaster,” he said. “It was just too soon at that time and people weren’t coming in.”

Markaverich continues to screen Saturday Afternoon Classics and his silent film series, while also renting out the theater, but he said he still isn’t sure when he will start bringing in new release movies.

“I don’t want to commit and start shoveling money into the boiler of the Titanic again,” Markaverich said.

Part of it is the kinds of movies he typically shows, more artsy films, just aren’t being released and ones that are “don’t seem to be doing anything,” he said. The other consideration is the direct-to-streaming approach taken by studios.

Markaverich said he is constantly evaluating and keeping an eye on what other theaters are doing. But for now, the weekend series and theater rentals have done quite well, he said.

If he didn’t reopen last July, Markaverich said he might have a different mindset.

“I intend to reopen. It is my intention,” he said. “I just don’t know when that will be.”

Amsbury-Bonilla said she feels “really fortunate and blessed we live in such a great community,” that supported the theater throughout the last year-plus. After the unsuccessful attempt to reopen, Amsbury-Bonilla launched a GoFundMe that raised more than $14,000 to keep the theater going. She also began opening the theater for private rentals.

“That’s what kept us alive, and not all theaters fared as well,” she said. “It’s thanks to the people of Peterborough and beyond that kept us going. Here we are on the other side, a year later and we’re fine, we’re okay.”

PCT began offering theater rentals at the end of last June, just weeks before the attempted reopening. Over the course of the first five showings, Amsbury-Bonilla said a total of nine people showed up, even with offering a mandatory mask option.

“It was really dismal. It wasn’t worth it,” she said. “We quickly discovered being open was costing us money.”

In addition to the GoFundMe, the theater rentals took off in July and August with three reservation slots taken every day of the week.

“People really latched on to the idea of renting the theater,” she said. “I was booked almost every single time I had since July of 2020 with a waiting list.”

Business slowed down this June, Amsbury-Bonilla said, as summer weather picked up. Now she will move forward with a hybrid approach of the regular showing schedule and rental times available on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the theater is typically closed, as well as 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when they only have evening screenings and prior to matinees on Wednesdays and the weekend.

Amsbury-Bonilla said they will be following all the CDC guidelines for showings with masks not required for vaccinated individuals and requested for those not vaccinated over the age of six. Sunday showings are reserved for vaccinated people only, an idea which came from a survey she sent out with a vaccinated-only showing as the No. 1 request. Patrons will be required to show their vaccination cards to be admitted.

“You’re going to have to show it. You’re going to have to prove it,” Amsbury-Bonilla said.

Of the 230 responses, more than 70 percent said they would come back, while about 23 percent said maybe. Only a small percentage said no. Capacity will be limited to 50 percent, except during the vaccinated-only screenings, but that won’t be a problem, she said. 

“Generally, we don’t fill it to  50 percent capacity in normal times.”


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