Pittsfield Historical Society’s
Pittsfield Community Theatre
MAINE’S ONLY MUNICIPALLY OWNED AND OPERATED THEATRE
Donna Dunphy became the fifth Theatre manager since the Town has owned it. Others include Susanna Ventura and Gerald Cowan. Donna was the projectionist at the theatre for 10 years prior to assuming the duties of Manager when Marilyn retired in 2001. The Theatre continues to provide a free Christmas movie one weekend in the month of December that includes free popcorn and soda for everyone attending and there are drawings for gifts. The Theatre is closed two weeks in July for the Egg Festival Pageant and the second week is the annual vacation shut down. The Theatre hosts events such as school plays and magic shows and has been used for business meetings.
Pittsfield Community Theatre History (from the Communty Theatre page at the Town of Pittsfield’s website in 2002.) The Theatre now has its own websites at www.pittsfieldtheatre.co.nr and at www.pittsfieldtheatre.yolasite.com where you can meet the staff and see what’s currently playing.
Old photos of the Bijou Theatre can be found here (1955, before the marquis was added) and here (1966) and here (1972).
History of the Theatre
|“1915 – Leger’s Theatre opened for business by Andy St. Ledger (silent movies).
“1918 – Bijou Theatre opened (formerly Leger’s Theatre).
“1929 – Sound was installed (talking movies).
“1956 – J.R. Cianchette purchased theatre and closed it for remodeling; spending between $80-100,000 on such luxurious items as the State’s first cushioned swing back seats and carbon-rod projectors.
“1957 April – The completely renovated and modernized Bijou Theatre was reopened! It was one of the most modern and beautiful small town theatres in New England.
“1962 – Glen Wheaton bought the Bijou Theatre.
“1971 – Mr. Wheaton was opposed to running X-rated movies and chose to shut the Theatre down (March 31, 1975) before he would run them.
“1975 – Maine National Bank & Cianbro Corporation purchased the Theatre for $6,000 each and absorbed the Theatre debt. The Theatre was donated (April 19) to the Pittsfield Community Theatre Association, a non-profit group. Ticket prices were $1.75. The theater lost 50 seats when a wide stage was installed to accommodate live productions. Hardwood flooring from the old Union Hall, now the Town’s fire station, was used to complete the expansion. Mr. Wheaton continued to work first as the projectionist for the Association and then Operations Manager for the Town until December 28, 1978.
“1977 – Town of Pittsfield bought the Theatre for $24,000.
“1978 – By April, the Theatre was hopping every day with movies, concerts, matinees for children and assorted artistic delights. A series of films by Maine film makers such as “Dead River Rough-cut” were shown and audiences also enjoyed the Ralph P. Robinson Ballet. There was also a blood pressure screening day.
“Mid 1980s – The Pittsfield Players, spearheaded by Alma Dow, was a group of local talent that performed plays such as Blythe Spirit and Visit to a Small Planet. They also performed revues with themes such as places (New York, New York) or seasons such as Christmas.
“1982-1994 – The Popular Opera of Pittsfield came together 1 week every August to put on Gilbert & Sullivan plays such as Ruddigore, The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore and Trial by Jury. When asked why he did it, Steve M. Quint stated, “For fun!”
[2003 – Theatre opens its own website at www.pittsfieldtheatre.co.nr and begins sending out email announcements of upcoming movies to anyone who wishes.]
[2013 – In late March the Theatre closed for a week to convert to digital projection.]
“When visiting the Theatre, please take “a walk down memory lane” and see the displays of some of the highlights of Pittsfield’s favorite shows.
“Today the theatre not only shows first-run movies, it also retains that small-town flavor in both operation and attitude.
“The theatre hasn’t changed much in the 87 years of operation, except now movies can be shown on Sunday (before 1940, Maine’s so-called Blue Laws prohibited Sunday showings). The lobby is immaculate, and the concession area, actually a little kitchen, is as neat as a pin. Candy boxes are lined up with corners in a row. All your favorites are there: Mike ‘n Ikes, Twizzlers, Dots, but paper bags of popcorn and a soda – a “combo” – is the best deal.
“Glen Wheaton stated that Friday night was always the traditional night for kids to kick up their heels. “We called it the Friday Night Miseries. We used to have two men on patrol that booted out troublemakers,” he said.
“Before the movie, while Marilyn Morse was at the helm, Elvis was likely to be wailing the hits of a former generation from the sound system while children and parents picked out the best seats. A gold, crushed-velvet stage curtain hides the screen, placed at the back of the wide stage used for live productions. On a Friday night (traditionally “Kids Night” – parents, don’t even THINK about going) it’s still pretty hard to hear yourself think.
“Then there was Marilyn and her flashlight. Marilyn Morse managed the Theatre for 20 years. The kids called her “Flash” behind her back. Misbehave and you’re out, was her motto, banning kids for a week or two, depending on the infraction. Most of the kids learned, though, that an apology could get them back in for the next Friday’s showing.
“We would like to thank Marilyn Morse for use of her theatre memorabilia. We would also like to thank the Bangor Daily News for the use of the information in their articles. Anyone who has photos of the theatre is encouraged to donate them to the Historical Society.
“Donna Dunphy became the fifth Theatre manager since the Town has owned it. Others include Susanna Ventura and Gerald Cowan. Donna was the projectionist at the theatre for 10 years prior to assuming the duties of Manager when Marilyn retired in 2001. The Theatre continues to provide a free Christmas movie one weekend in the month of December that includes free popcorn and soda for everyone attending and there are drawings for gifts. The Theatre is closed two weeks in July for the Egg Festival Pageant and the second week is the annual vacation shut down. The Theatre hosts events such as school plays and magic shows and has been used for business meetings.
“—The Pittsfield Theatre Committee”
Original Version 16-Dec-05.