The Alamo Theatre on Main Street in Bucksport turned 105 on Feb. 18. That makes her the second oldest still-standing theater in the state of Maine, according to Northeast Historic Film Executive Director David Weiss.
Northeast Historic Film is the parent organization of The Alamo.
The Alamo is surviving her second pandemic, the first being the 1918 flu outbreak, thanks to the generosity of supporters who have continued their memberships despite the temporary closure.
The theater closed March 14, 2020, and hopes to reopen when it is safe to do so, according to Weiss.
“So, in keeping with tradition, we’re closed for the pandemic,” Weiss quipped. However, the 1918 closure was for about six weeks.
“People have been unbelievable” in their support, said Jane Donnell, who handles marketing and donor relations for Northeast Historic Film. Even though no membership perks are available because the theater is temporarily closed, patrons are keeping their memberships active.
“I think we have a welleducated audience,” said Donnell. “The support has been great.”
The birthday was a bit of a surprise for staff who had thought the anniversary date was this coming October.
However, Donnell found an article from the Bangor Daily News dated Monday, Feb. 21, 1916, about the opening night, held on Friday, Feb. 18, 1916.
“Too much cannot be said in praise of the new theater itself, which is certainly all that can be desired and one of which any city or town might well be proud,” the article stated.
The current building replaced Emery Hall, which was destroyed by fire on Aug. 27, 1915.
Northeast Historic Film bought the theater in the ’90s, said Weiss. Since then, much of the structure has been renovated.
Weiss said one last project that needs to be done, the fundraising for which has already been accomplished, is that the bricks over the “fly loft” over the stage need to be repointed.
“Otherwise, it’s fine,” said Weiss. “I think we’ve pretty much rebuilt the whole inside.”
One “dramatic enhancement” that theater-goers may notice when the Alamo reopens is a technology called a “loop” for people who use hearing aids. That entails hearing aids automatically connecting to a metallic loop in the floor of the theater, Weiss explained.
You may have noticed driving down Main Street that there seems to be a constantly changing message on the Alamo’s marquee.
Donnell had the idea to rent the marquee to anyone who might like to put out a positive message or a happy birthday or congratulations. The fee is $25 for two days. Email [email protected].
“We just wanted to be a light on in the town,” Donnell said.
One supporter bought marquee space and had her out-of-state grandchildren dream up messages. So, one week, there was simply “chocolate chip cookies” and “YOLO — you only live once.”
“Their messages were adorable,” said Donnell. “It was pure kid. It was a neat triangle for us to bridge that isolation people feel.”
Weiss said the first movie was shown in Maine in 1896.
People usually went to town halls to see movies, which were part of an evening of entertainment, including vaudeville acts and dances.
In 1910, the first “purposebuilt movie theater” was built in Maine, he said.