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A Gem of a theater

  • Peterborough residents Kevin Goohs and Vanessa Amsbury-Bonilla during their first weekend as the new owners of Peterborough Community Theatre. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce

  • Peterborough residents Vanessa Kevin Goohs and Amsbury-Bonilla their first weekend as the new owners of Peterborough Community Theatre. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, September 05, 2018 5:53PM

Engaged couple Vanessa Amsbury-Bonilla and Kevin Goohs of Peterborough said they couldn’t bear the thought of losing their local movie theater, so they bought it.

“We didn’t want to lose it,” Amsbury-Bonilla said. “We think that this is really a gem in our community and so much a part of the vitality of the downtown area. The thought of living in Peterborough without this theater was really sad.”

Originally named The Gem, the Peterborough Community Theatre has the distinction of being the oldest continuously running movie theater in New Hampshire. The theater is celebrating its 104th anniversary in September.

Longtime Peterborough resident, Carol Nelson had owned the theater for four years before passing ownership over to Amsbury-Bonilla and Goohs on Friday.

Nelson was a longtime patron of the movie theater when in 2013 she stepped in to help the owners at the time launch a successful Kickstarter.com campaign that raised more than $45,000 to convert the theater from film to digital. Without the transition the theater would have had to close.

In 2014, just after the theater celebrated its 100th anniversary, Nelson became the new owner. Her goal was to create a sustainable working model for the small 95-seat theater and then find a new owner. She made many updates including all new seats, a new website, a new popcorn machine and a DVS (Descriptive Video Service) system, which improves the theater experience for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. She also created partnerships with local nonprofits to create community events, including documentary film screenings. The movie theater also has a partnership with the Keene-based Monadnock International Film Festival to bring a touch of the festival to Peterborough each spring. She also started a Monday night movie club for discussions on the current movie playing.

In February 2017, she made it public that she was searching for a buyer, but said Wednesday it took more than two years to find the right one.

“I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled with Kevin and Vanessa,” Nelson said. “They are full of energy. They’re local. They are community-oriented. They are going to take the theater to a whole new level. I just know they will.”

Nelson said over the years she fielded many inquires from people interested in buying the theater and turning it into a live arts/music venue. But with no stage and only 95 seats, it never worked out to be a viable option for those interested buyers, she said.

“They’d have to charge like $50 a seat,” Nelson said. “It really made sense to keep it a movie theater.”

Nelson said she knows Amsbury-Bonilla and Goohs will be successful, because they have such a great love of movies. “You’ve got to love what you do,” Nelson said.

The theater had been up for sale for more than two years when Amsbury-Bonilla and Goohs said they started to look into buying the theater after hearing rumors it would close. For the couple that has been engaged for just over a year, they said everything fell into place and they closed on the theater Friday morning and dove right into the business that day.

“This place means so much to us. We come here all the time. We’re patrons. We come here practically every week,” Goohs said. “It just seems the timing was perfect.”

To make it work, Amsbury-Bonilla left her job as an administrative assistance at the town of Peterborough, but continues to work at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church during the day. Goohs will work nights and weekends at the theater, but will continue to work fulltime as a marketing product manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Water and Lab Products in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. They also have four children between them – ages, 11, 15, 17 and 19 – that are going to help run the movie theater.

Amsbury-Bonilla and Goohs said they love all genres and will continue to run blockbusters to independent and documentary films.

“We love everything. That’s why we come every week, cause we love every type of movie. I know I do, ” she said. “Well except for horror films. I don’t like horror films, he does.”

Goohs admits he is the horror film fan, of the two. And said he would like to incorporate his love of classic horror films into a monthly late night show.

“I like the horror films, I am thinking about doing a ‘Fright Night Friday,’ late night, and a ‘Sci-fi Saturday,” he said.

Goohs added, “We don’t want to change the model at all. I like socially thought provoking films, musicals, Avengers movies and Marvel movies.”

“We’re always going to do a variety,” Amsbury-Bonilla said.

Nelson said she doesn’t know what’s next for her, but she is happy to sit back and be a patron of Peterborough Community Theatre again.

“I’m just going to take a little break for a while. I’m sure my next project is going to find me before I find it and of course I’m going to go to some movies now that I’m on the other side of the concession counter,” Nelson said.

You can learn more about the theater at pctmovies.com.