HOULTON, Maine — The new owners of one of the oldest movie theaters in Maine are transforming the historic movie house into a theater that will offer film festivals, live-streamed concerts, top-of-the-line laser film and streaming projection, plus beer and wine.
When Fred Grant purchased the iconic Temple Theater in downtown Houlton earlier this year, he talked about upgrading equipment and events. And now Grant and his team are moving ahead with plans to bring the world into downtown Houlton.
It is the latest enterprise to grow in an upward trend of business development in downtown Houlton.
“We are looking at all kinds of non-traditional offerings,” he said. “It’s about more than just movies.”
Live streaming has changed the movie business and many theaters have closed because they cannot compete with the convenience of staying home to watch such events. But Grant said offering live-streamed concerts and other events from the theater, along with beer and wine, lets patrons see the events they cannot attend in person.
“So much is streamed but people are not with others,” he said. “This is a way to do it creatively.”
The new laser projection equipment they are installing will make it a noticeable difference from home television viewing, he said.
“It’s difficult to replicate laser quality at home,” he said.
Grant, president of Northern Maine Media Inc. and owner of Market Pizza in Houlton, said he couldn’t let the iconic 1919 Temple Theater on Market Square in Houlton close. Now his plans for upgrading the venue will provide completely new offerings for the town.
The theater’s team is trying to strike a deal with a concert streaming host to bring live concerts to town. It also has a license to live stream sporting tournaments, like basketball, from around the state, Grant said.
To add to the entrepreneurs’ plans, the Houlton Town Council approved Grant’s application for a liquor license at Monday night’s meeting with a vote of 5 to 1.
Councilor Eileen McLaughlin dissented, sharing concerns about alcohol being served around families with children, especially with so much untreated alcoholism in the town.
Grant told the town council that the application for the liquor license is the “opportunity for opportunities.”
He said he has many requests for private events at the theater that include serving beer and wine. Additionally, Grant is looking to upgrade the balcony area in Theater One as an upscale seating area for adults with reclining seats and its own concession area that serves beer and wine.
“I think it’s brilliant. What a way to grow,” Councilor Jane Torres said. Torres also heads the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. “When you go out for date nights, it would be really nice to have a glass of wine while you watch the movie.”
This weekend the theater is holding a Brat Pack — St. Elmo’s Fire and Breakfast Club — event with $5 tickets and 1980s concession offerings like Pop Rocks and Pixie Sticks, he said.
He plans to bring Maine-made films to town. For one such film, he hopes to have the film’s creator come to Houlton to talk to audiences, he said.
For Veteran’s Day, they have a Lee Greenwood streaming special planned.
Grant said some events will be free, some will have lower ticket prices and some others will be in line with streaming services requirements.
They are still working out the details about all the future offerings at the theater.