Reopened venue brought cinema back to the city

The Beacon Theater and Story Screen, the brand attached to the renovated theater since its reopening in 2019, have announced they are parting ways. Moving forward, the theater will be known as The Beacon.

That’s what the building at 445 Main St. was called in 1934, when it opened as a 1,200-seat venue to show “photo plays.” (An opera house built in 1886 was torn down to make way for the theater.) The theater closed in 1968 but was purchased and rehabilitated in the mid-1990s by the Everlasting Covenant Church. A theater company, 4th Wall Productions, bought the building in 2010 with plans to create an 800-seat performance space.

After 4th Wall fell behind on its mortgage payments, Brendan McAlpine, a Beacon resident whose development group also restored The Roundhouse, bought the theater in 2015.

Soon after, he connected with Mike Burdge, the founder of Story Screen, who had been showing free “pop-up” films around Beacon and, in 2015, organized a horror movie marathon at several venues.

McAlpine and Burdge, along with two other partners, reopened the theater after extensive renovations, bringing first-run movies back to Main Street for the first time in decades.

Burdge announced this week that he is leaving the theater, which he managed, for personal reasons. Through his Story Screen brand, he had been responsible for such events there as the Beacon HorrorShow, trivia nights, an annual Oscars celebration and a monthly VHS Pasta Night.

“We have had a terrific response and support from the community over the years,” said Burdge, who remains a minority owner in The Beacon. He added that he will announce his plans for Story Screen in the coming months.

Other than hiring a new manager, little will change at The Beacon, McAlpine said. The venue will continue to show first-run fare — Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the current headliner — in its largest theater, an 85-seat space.

The second theater, with 25 seats, shows independent and foreign films, while the third theater hosts live entertainment, such as comedy shows and improv troupes, as well as private screenings and “revival” films from the 1980s and ’90s. The third theater can also be rented for parties and other private events.

The staff, which McAlpine called a dedicated crew of “cinephiles at heart,” will remain, as will Wonderbar, the adjacent cafe, which was restored and opened a year after the theater.

The Beacon continues to rebound after the pandemic, which saw it shutter for nearly a year, just as it was gaining steam after reopening. “The pandemic was a killer for a lot of businesses,” McAlpine said, noting that theaters, despite ample seating space and air-circulation systems, “were perceived as not safe.”

“We do see people coming back now, and it’s getting better, pretty much every week,” he said. “It’s been a success overall, though we took a detour there.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

2 replies on “Beacon Theater, Story Screen Split”

  1. As a frequent customer of the Beacon Theater, I feel compelled to comment on the statement that “other than hiring a new manager, little will change.” I’ll miss VHS Pasta Night, trivia nights and Oscars-related programming, all of which contributed to a personal, local, unique movie-theater experience.

    Recent screenings of Rear Window, The Shining, Midnight Cowboy and Birdman are what I appreciated most, not just first-run fare, which is always available in Fishkill and Gardnertown. What I notice now is the impersonalization of the experience: lack of a menu displaying the drink offerings at the concession stand, no updates to the marquee and, most annoyingly, no dates or times listed anywhere for current movies, just a reference to use a QR code or check the website.

    I’ve never encountered a theater so seemingly lazy, minimally interested in doing business and willing to tell customers: “You have a phone, look it up yourself.” The Story Screen team will be solely missed.

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