A century of cinema: Keene’s historic Colonial Theatre marks 100 years with silent film spectacle

Keene Colonial Theatre will celebrate its 100th anniversary Jan. 28 with a film screening. Photo courtesy of Keene Colonial Theatre.

By Stacy Milbouer

January 26, 2024

What do Quasimodo and Keene have in common?  They both mark the start of a Keene downtown institution. On Sunday, Jan. 28, the Colonial Performing Arts Center is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a free screening of the silent classic, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the first movie shown there a century ago.

But don’t worry. There will be sound. New Hampshire writer and composer, Jeff Rapsis will be playing piano along with the Lon Chaney flick as he has for many silent films. Rapsis specializes in scoring original music for these soundless flicks.

When the Colonial opened in 1924 it was considered a state-of-the-art performance palace where films were shown and operas, plays, and vaudeville were staged. It continued to be THE place until the late 80s and early 90s and was in danger of closing. But in 1992 when a group of loyal fans, artists, and businesses took over and turned it into a non-profit arts organization. Ever since it’s been a draw for nearby Keene State College students, local businesses, and fans of film and live performances.

The theater, which is on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places, wants visitors to “party like it’s 1924,” by not only attending the film but hanging around afterward for cake, popcorn, and champagne in the lobby. Doors are open at 1:30, the film starts at 2:15, and the lobby festivities begin at 4:30. Everything is free but visitors are asked to register on the theater’s website.

 

Author

  • Stacy Milbouer

    Stacy Milbouer is an award-winning journalist and has covered New Hampshire for many publications including the Boston Globe, New Hampshire Magazine, and the Nashua Telegraph.

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