HISTORY OF THE HARBOR THEATER
In 1932, Boothbay Harbor’s first cinema, The Strand Theater, was built on property next to what is now the Opera House on Townsend Avenue. It was destroyed in a fire in 1982, and the only movie house in town was the summer Harbor Lights Cinema that operated out of the Meadow Mall from 1985 to 2002. When the lights went out at that theater, Jason Sheckley, a long-time theater projectionist with a summer home in Boothbay, bought it and re-opened it as Harbor Theatre in the summer of 2002.
Sheckley decorated the lobby with his own collection of vintage posters, film and projector equipment, and a 1950s-style juke box (that never played). For 15 years, he ran the theater single-handedly, taking tickets, serving up popcorn, and always standing at the door to say goodnight to his patrons.
In 2007, Robert Devine and a group of loyal theater supporters founded “Friends of The Harbor Theater,” a non-profit organization with a mission “to sustain and perpetuate motion pictures on the Boothbay peninsula.” The group sponsored a Wednesday Night Film Series, and rented the theater during winter months from the owner.
Through membership donations, “Friends” installed a new screen, speakers, and masking curtains, re-rigged the curtain, and installed nearly-new seats donated by The Regal Cinema Co. of Syracuse, NY. Seats were sold to raise money for the installation, and plaques were installed on the armrest of each seat identifying the patron who had donated the seat.
In 2012 Harbor Theatre raised close to $70,000 from community supporters to switch to a digital projector to handle digitized films.
In 2017, Sheckley sold his assets to the Friends of the Harbor Theater, which subsequently changed its name to Harbor Theater.
The non-profit theater, with a community-based board of directors, continued to show first-run films, but added art and independent films, documentaries, and special events such as Meet the Director nights and educational and cultural events sponsored by local groups. A Classic Film Series, Art Series and Food ‘n Film Series were initiated. Highlights over the last three years included a sold-out gala for the opening of Downton Abbey, a free showing of The Wizard of Oz with costume contest at Christmas, Way Down East, a silent film accompanied by live music, and several Made in Maine films with directors in attendance.
The theater has been closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, generous community support has kept us afloat at this critical time, and we anticipate opening in Spring 2021 when a vaccine is available to the whole community.
Meanwhile, we drew large crowds at two outdoor films this summer in conjunction with board member Scott Larson, one at his Linekin Bay Resort for boats only and another on the lawn at Newagen Seaside Inn. In November the theater sponsored a drive-in movie at the Meadow Mall parking lot with more than 77 cars filled with families of all ages.
As a tax-exempt non-profit, the Harbor Theater relies on community support for almost 50% of its budget. All donations are tax deductible within the law. Please consider joining as a member or making a donation by going to SUPPORT US on this website.