News Column

Almost curtain time for Chatham Orpheum Theater

July 18, 2013


July 18--CHATHAM -- Theatergoers hoping to catch the first show at the Chatham Orpheum Theater should circle the date: July 26.

But use a pencil.

While Orpheum president Naomi Turner said the schedule of events has not been "set in stone" for the soft opening, she is optimistic that, for the first time in 20 years, a film will be shown at the theater that evening.

"There were 30 people working on site today and so many things are falling into place," Turner said Tuesday evening. "Today, 200 gorgeous and comfortable seats were installed, along with carpeting, the finish carpentry, fabric and painting. The theaters actually have screens, curtains and state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment. We are almost ready to go."

The theater, which includes two screens, concessions and a cafe, will debut with Steven Spielberg's films "Jaws," "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," along with "The Way Way Back," a comedy-drama released this summer.

Turner said the Spielberg films were shown at the site in the '70s and '80s, during the building's earlier incarnation as a theater.

"I have spoken to 20 different groups of people over the last year, and everyone says our first film should be 'Jaws,'" Turner said. "Since it's not necessarily an appropriate option for youngsters, we also booked 'E.T.' and 'Raiders' to round that out. All four films will be scheduled between the two theaters and shown in our first week."

Turner, who has been instrumental in raising $3.2 million dollars since the Orpheum project began in 2011, said she anticipates the theater could be "up and running with full power" even before the goal date so patrons should "keep their eyes open."

"You know, it's also possible that we could open a day or two before the 26th -- and that would be a really soft opening," she said. "We would just put a sign out saying, 'Tickets available tonight.'"

Beginning Monday, Turner said, Orpheum staff will also be giving tours of the theater to the public from 8 to 11 a.m. daily, leading up to the soft opening. She hopes people will come and learn about the theater's history, as well as buy tickets for the grand opening weekend.

"We want to get people into the theater ahead of time so that there isn't 500 people all of a sudden lined up fighting to get in," Turner said.

"We have 3,000 donors alone, and if they all want to come in the first weekend we are in trouble. This way, during the tours, people can come in and take a look at the progress of the theater, as well as buy tickets in advance."

Kevin McLain, the Orpheum's theater director, said that while the theater staff wants to open as soon as possible, they won't show films until staff can "give the best movie experience possible."

"We want to open as soon as we can so our summer friends have a chance to experience watching a film at the Orpheum, but we need to make sure our end is prepared and operationally able to handle all the people that want to come here," McLain said.

"We are learning as we go along and, while there could be a few quirks at the beginning, we are making a steady pace toward our goal of a July 26 opening."

McLain referred to the Orpheum as a "community theater" and said this soft opening is an opportunity to "give back to everyone in the community."

"This is an all-inclusive theater and that is the spirit and energy that we want and hope to bring at the opening," he said. "The community has missed this theater every day since it closed. It's surprising how much people remember the theater as much as they remember the movies they saw there.

"We want to make sure we carry that on so that people are bringing their children and grandchildren for years to come."


(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)

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