Wilton Town Hall Theatre to go digital

WILTON – One side at a time, Wilton theatre owner Dennis Markaverich said last week of the required conversion of the Town Hall Theatre to digital projection, “We’re working on it and folks have been very kind.”

The large theater will be converted “in the not too distant future.”

He has more than $13,000 and offers of many other kinds of help: Redoing all the electrical parts at cost, an offer of help from Comcast, and fundraising ideas from many people, including a big basket of goodies from Turner Classic Movies that is to be raffled, provided by a former resident.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “We will do it. We are determined. We’ll keep the 35 (millimeter) in the small room and save our pennies.”

Upcoming fundraising events include a silent film benefit on March 8.

“The movie is ‘Wings’ from 1927, starring Buddy Rogers and Clara Bow. Jeff Rapsis will play,” Markaverich said. He didn’t have the fine details in place at press time.

There are donation jars on the counters and at several places around town.

“It’s heart warming,” Markaverich said. “The seniors who come to the classic movies, they put all their change in the jars.

“I’m grateful for all the kind thoughts and encouragement,” he said. “You can’t put a dollar sign beside that.”

Donations can also be made to the Town Hall Theatre Digital Conversion Fund at TD Bank, P.O. Box 150, Wilton, NH 03086.

“I don’t want to, but I may have to go to one of those crowd raisers to finish off,” he said about online crowdfunding campaigns.

While Markaverich has been running the theater in the Town Hall’s upstairs auditorium since 1973, the theater is much older than that.

In a presentation for the Wilton Historical Society in 2011, Michael Dell’Orto said film have been shown there since 1911. “Talkies” were introduced in the 1930s.

Since its construction in 1885, what is now the main screening room has been used for town meetings (until the 1950s), concerts, plays, old-time black-face minstrel shows, basketball games “and even a few boxing matches,” Dell’Orto said.

The town hall has always had its political side, even housed the municipal court, “but main attraction was always entertainment,” he said, about professional touring shows, and then the movies.

And the movies will continue into the digital age, Markaverich said. “We will do it.”

Almost all new movies are digital, he said. “It is very hard to get a 35 (mm).”

He wants to continue first-run movies, and he will.