By John M. Holman, Contributing Writer
In addition to the Olympia Theatre, the Casino Theatre and the Barn Theatre at the Beach, Hampton was privileged to have another theatre which opened in the Grange Hall (now the American Legion Post #35 hall at 69 High Street) on Friday, October 2, 1942 as the "WINTER BARN THEATRE".
The owner and manager was Bernard ("Bernie") H. Stevens assisted by his wife, Van. The new theatre featured 2 shows each evening, at 6:45 pm and 8:45 pm (except Sunday). Matinees were Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 pm and at 2:30 pm on Saturdays. The admission for the matinee was 17 cents for children and 25 cents for adults. The evening shows were 39 cents for all seats, with tax included. This was the price policy for the year 1942.
The first showing was held on Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3, 1942 and the movie was "THIS ABOVE ALL" with Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine. Selected short subjects were "Power for Defense" and "Latest World News". The movie ad read, "Autographed photo of Tyrone Power given FREE to each lady on Friday and Saturday evenings". (This writer still has a so-called "autographed" photo of Tyrone Power!)
The movie theatre operated under the name of the WINTER BARN THEATRE through the next year, then decided to remain open all year round under the name of THE HAMPTON THEATRE. The "new" Hampton Theatre held its grand opening on Friday, October 8, 1943 with the first show at 7:00 pm, matinee on Saturday, at 2:15 pm and the theatre was closed on Tuesday.
A popcorn stand was set up downstairs in the hallway and was managed by "Jackie" Cate, now Mrs. Mario Fusco of Boynton Beach, Florida. The popcorn was 10 cents a box and was "French Fried". Quoting from a communication from "Jackie", she says, "I 'graduated ' from popcorn to box office and even learned to run the projection booth when I was commuting to Burdett College in Lynn, Mass. in 1946. It was a lot of fun. I helped out when needed until I was married in May of 1949. If I remember correctly, we were getting 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children in the evenings at that time." The theatre was upstairs and even had 2 ushers during the performances. (This writer was one of those ushers, along with John Berry, Hampton's Tax Collector at that time.)
The bill often showed two features, along with the "latest" news, a cartoon and a "cliff hanger" serial, labeled as "Selected Short Subjects" in Hampton Union's movie ad. They also showed "trailers" (previews of coming attractions) and there was always a Saturday afternoon matinee at 2:15 pm.
Quoting from Hampton Unionedition of April 5, 1951: "After nearly eight and one-half years of operation, the Hampton Theatre closed its doors Saturday night, March 31, 1951, for the last time.
"Mr. Bernard H. Stevens, owner and manager of the theatre, stated this week that a gradual falling off of attendance due primarily to the number of television sets in this area, was responsible for the theatre's closing.
"Mr. Stevens first opened the theatre in the Grange Hall in the fall of 1942 as the Winter Barn Theatre, but the following summer, decided to remain open all year round under the name of The Hampton Theatre.
"During their eight years in Hampton, Mr. Stevens and his wife, Van, who worked along with her husband to keep the business going, have won many friends among the youngsters as well as the adult population of this area for the clean and wholesome type of shows that they made available."
And so with the closing of the Hampton Theatre in the Grange Hall on March 31, 1951, came the end of an era until many years later, when Hampton Cinema opened its doors with 4 theaters-in-one (later, with 6 theaters-in-one) next to The Galley Hatch Restaurant. The only things missing from the new theatres of today, are the "Selected Short Subjects", which included the latest world news, cartoons and the Serials, such as "Custer's Last Stand" in 12 chapters. Now there was a "cliff-hanger"! And, of course, popcorn is no longer 10 cents.
How many of our readers' can still remember the old "New" Hampton Theatre in the Grange Hall back in the 1940's and early '50's?
"How much was that "French Fried" popcorn, Jackie? Only 10 cents?? What a bargain!"
"Thank you for NOT talking during the movie!"
(Photos courtesy of Jackie (Cate) Jordan-Fusco of Boynton Beach, Florida.)
[Courtesy photo by Liz Premo]
Famous Actress Negotiating With Leavitt Homestead
Wednesday, July 4, 1951
Priscilla Lane, famous motion picture star, may open a drama school and summer theatre at Hampton Beach next summer.
Last week she and her husband, Joseph Howard of Windham, N. H., visited at the Leavitt Homestead on North Beach, owned and operated by Frank W. Biery.
The old red barn [THE BARN THEATRE at North Beach. See play-bill at end of article] at the junction of Ocean boulevard and High street, which in former years housed a branch of the Ogunquit Players, is the proposed location of Miss Lane's project.
Mr. Biery reported that the Howard's were "very favorably pressed" with the layout, but that no action is likely to be taken before next season.
The Howards have a summer home and business at Island Pond, Derry, N. H., and expect to visit at Hampton Beach from time to time throughout the summer.
Mr. Howard and Francis Biery, son of Frank Biery, grew up together at a summer camp near Lawrence. Another son, Walter Biery is doing most of the negotiating with the Howards over the proposed project.
The big red barn at the Leavitt Homestead was used as a movie house for awhile and later was used as a restaurant. It has a picturesque interior that includes rough-hewn balconies at the corners and giant timbers for support.
[See also, Hampton Goes to the Movies, Hampton Union, June 26, 2007]