The Alamo Theatre in Bucksport closed its doors at the start of the pandemic and, aside from a brief ill-fated stint last summer, hasn’t welcomed the public to see movies since.
That changes this weekend when the historic cinema, which dates back to 1916, dims the lights and welcomes moviegoers for a Friday showing of the Oscar-nominated “Licorice Pizza.”
After a tough couple of years, the management behind the 123-seat, single-screen theater hopes this reopening is for good and that the return of movies can attract more people to other businesses downtown.
“We’re going to give it a shot,” said Jane Donnell, the Alamo’s manager. “We’re very excited for our local restaurants. We know what a symbiotic relationship we have.”
There seems to be an appetite for the return of in-person viewing. Donnell said she’s heard from several theater members who want to get back into the cinema’s seats. And despite a snow storm, 15 people showed up to last week’s open house. More said they would have gone if they had known the event was still on.
“We’ve kind of let the people guide us,” Donnell said. “They seem excited.”
The theater attempted to reopen in July 2021 but closed again by August due to the rise of the delta variant and poor attendance. Weekends would go by and the theater would see about 30 people total. Late screenings would be empty.
“We made it about eight weeks and were just losing people and money,” Donnell said. “People just weren’t ready.”
The space hasn’t been quiet the entire time though. Northeast Historic Film, the nonprofit that owns and operates out of the theater, continued to collect and preserve old footage from Mainers, including what’s believed to be the earliest color footage of Mahatma Gandhi, and rented out the theater for weddings and birthday parties.
During this weekend’s reopening, the theater plans to ask people to mask when they’re in the lobby and will have additional seating available so people can space out as much as possible.
Donnell said the theater’s clientele may have changed since it closed in 2020, so it’s experimenting with its film choices.
The Alamo will start out with some movies that aren’t available on streaming platforms — “Licorice Pizza” and “Drive My Car,” for instance — and try out blockbusters like the latest installment in the “Spider-Man” franchise.
“We had a really solid audience when we closed in 2020,” Donnell said. “We don’t know for sure who our audience is now.”