Three-screen cinema planned for space
By Jeff Simms
For the first time in decades, Main Street in Beacon will have a movie house.
The Beacon theater building at 445 Main St., built in 1934 to show “photo plays,” will reopen, possibly as early as this summer, as a three-screen theater called Story Screen that will show classic and independent films as well as first-run movies.
The theater’s owner, Highview Development, is constructing 30 residential units in the five-story building, said Brendan McAlpine, the president of Highview, which also restored the Roundhouse on the east end of Main.
Story Screen is the moniker for a film series launched in 2015 in Beacon by Mike Burdge, who is partnering with McAlpine, Jason Schuler and Scott Brenner on the theater project. Story Screen has operated as what Schuler, who owns More Good at 383 Main St., calls “nomadic pop-up theater,” with screenings in restaurants and shops.
The main theater will feature 85 stadium-style seats, McAlpine said, while a second theater will have 25 and a third room — all on the ground floor — will be used for screenings, events and possibly live performances. The theater’s lobby will have a bar as well as traditional concessions “with a twist,” he said.
“You don’t make the movie; you’re just selling someone else’s product,” McAlpine said. “So what we have to focus on is making the guest’s experience as great as we can from the minute they walk into the theater. We’re trying to provide an elevated movie experience.”
McAlpine bought the theater in 2015 from 4th Wall Productions and received Planning Board approval last year for its redevelopment. The plans went through several iterations before the group settled on bringing movies back to Main, he said.
“It was always important to me that there was a public-space feature to it,” he said. “The one thing I thought was missing here was a movie theater. The trend is moving away from cineplexes and you see more of these indie theaters popping up everywhere. I couldn’t think of a better place for something like that.”
The site originally housed an opera house built in 1886 that was torn down and replaced in 1934 with a 1,200 seat venue, according to the Beacon Historical Society. The city has had other movie houses: the Roosevelt Theater, once at 288 Main St., had 1,000 seats, and Family Cinema was located at Route 52 and Main Street. An establishment called the Apollo Theater is believed to have been in Beacon, as well.
The Beacon theater at 445 Main St. closed in 1968 and was shuttered to the public for more than 40 years until 4th Wall bought the building in 2010 with plans to create an 800-seat performance space. But the group fell behind on its mortgage payments and faced foreclosure before Highview stepped in.
A community group called Save the Beacon Theater was formed after McAlpine bought the building and lobbied Highview Development to restore the theater as a centerpiece for Beacon’s creative community.
McAlpine and Schuler said this week that they believe Story Screen will bring the building full circle. “It draws on the ethereal energy of what the space was intended for,” Schuler said.
That’s not entirely true. That building sat dark, dormant and in a state of great disrepair for many years, only being used for storage before it was purchased by a local church in the early 1990s — a church that was tasked with being open and accessible to all members of the community. To omit this portion of the building’s history is a disservice to all of the people (including many Beacon residents) who worked tirelessly painting, landscaping, plumbing and doing a variety of other jobs too make the building habitable.
Absolutely Andre. You’re another witness! Every article I see about this theater over time does the same thing. They don’t tell the whole story, they skirt over the fact of the ministry’s ownership. It is an absolute disservice to the residents of Beacon old and new. Thanks for commenting, Andre!
You wrote, “The Beacon Theater at 445 Main St. closed in 1968 and was shuttered to the public for more than 40 years until 4th Wall bought the building in 2010 with plans to create an 800-seat performance space.”
This statement is not true. Why doesn’t The Highland Current do proper research instead of misleading the public with articles like this? That theater was bought by Everlasting Covenant Church in the mid-1990s and cleaned up, made beautiful and habitable by the small group of courageous, faithful believers in Christ in spite of constant opposition by the City of Beacon government who joined with wealthy land developers making it very difficult to maintain ministry of the gospel in Beacon. The church is who opened that theater back up for use, not 4th Wall. But that’s what the media does to the public. They tell only the portion of truth they want you to know.
The reference was to the use of the building as a performance space. Our story was not intended to present a complete history of every use of the building over the decades between its uses as a theater. That hardly seems reason to issue an indictment of the entire “media” or accuse us of “misleading” anyone.
The Highlands Current
Not only was a church opened in that long-vacant building after much renovation work, but also a school. That school offered a wonderful education not only to the children of the church, but to many children from the community.
We had very little cooperation from city government, and in many cases, outright opposition. It wasn’t until that building was purchased and renovated by the church, that several other new local businesses began being established at that end of Main Street, so we know we added a valuable piece to the re-building of Main Street in Beacon.
When you look up at the huge, beautiful chandelier of many branches and lights hanging in the auditorium, which was our sanctuary, think of us.
Pretty closed-cut statement if you ask me. And yours is not the first article over the years that has minimized or blatantly ignored the true history of that theater and its ownership and use. Why tell some but not all for clarity and the public’s knowledge? But who cares right? Let’s cheer for independent movies on three screens!
Our apologies to every entity that occupied the space between 1968 and 2000 that we did not mention in our 530-word article.
They buy the theater from 4th Wall, which had no cash and cost the city thousands of dollars during its tenure, using cash they got from selling their parking for 1 E. Main back to the city. They use 4th Wall as a cover to ease residents’ fears that the building will not remain a public space. Then they change the plan to apartments with a token performance space managed by the failed 4th Wall, to the dismay of residents. Now it appears that 4th Wall wasn’t up to the task, so it’s going to be a token movie theater with a little more than 100 seats split across three rooms. Beacon really does deserve better.