In January, the outlook for the Pittsfield Community Theatre was as dark as when the lights are dimmed for a movie.

At the first Town Council meeting of the year, residents criticized a projected 8% to 10% tax increase in the town’s budget, councilors debated a move to transfer $130,000 from the police department to road repairs and several councilors talked about closing the theater, a perennial money pit, for a year or possibly forever.

At the end of the meeting that stretched more than six hours from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, the budget for the theater had been cut by $45,000, and some expected it to close half way through the year.

Jennifer Watson, secretary of the Pittsfield Community Theatre Committee, said recently: “A lot of people are unaware that the theater is still open. (We) get calls asking if it’s still open.”

But, as has happened since the theater opened in 1915, there is a flicker of light in the darkness — live events — and a vision for the future: A nonprofit theater that sustains itself separate from the town.

“One major change is our program for live events,” Watson said during a Town Council meeting last Tuesday. “We want to bring in more revenue, but also offer the community a bigger variety of entertainment and things to do in town. This is an effort to create a sustainable program of live events to establish working relationships with school and community. It’s not just fundraising. It’s something that’s sustainable.”

“We’re really trying to find our niche,” Jaime Jensen, the theater’s manager, said. “It’s not going to just be movies. We’re trying to do what we can to get the people back in those seats where they belong.”

For October, the theater has lined up live musical performances, poetry readings and an interactive opportunity to celebrate Halloween.

Ukulele Russ & His One Man Frontier Band comes to town with the Ukulele Orchestra of Greater Brewer as an opening act from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the theater or at Bud’s Shop ‘n Save in Pittsfield.

Pittsfield Community Theatre Manager Jaime Jensen, seated Thursday in the pictured in the theater’s front row, saw her first movie, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” at the theater, which opened in 1915 and has hosted movies, plays and musical performances.

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the Pittsfield Public Library will bring the Maine Poetry Express to the theater. The free show features poet Karin Spitfire, invites audience participation and starts at 6 p.m.

In the week leading up to Halloween, the theater will screen the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” every night from Oct. 25 to Oct. 31. Show times have yet to be confirmed, but arriving in costume is expected.

Jaime Jensen, manager of the Pittsfield Community Theatre, stands Thursday at the entrance to the projection room at the theater in Pittsfield.

At the town council meeting Tuesday, the theater committee presented their plans to file for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and sustain the business as a separate entity from the town.

“Our ultimate goal is to be a stand-alone nonprofit that can assume ownership of the building and operations,” Watson said.

The theater opened in 1915 as Leger’s Theatre and screened silent movies. In 1929, a sound system was installed and it became the Bijou Theatre. The theater’s ownership changed hands three times from 1962 to 1975, until the town of Pittsfield purchased it for $24,000 in 1977.

Ann Mathews, head of the theater committee, said once the theater becomes a nonprofit, the group envisions the theater expanding to become an “enrichment center.”

“We hope to purchase the building next door and have a new concession stand and accessible bathrooms put in,” Mathews said. “But we also want an art gallery and space to put on programs of all types, like after-school programs and senior citizen programs. We want to add space for live performances and plays. The sky is the limit.”

Tape provides a makeshift repair Thursday to historic red velvet seats in the Pittsfield Community Theatre in Pittsfield.

According to Mathews, the expanded theater could benefit the community in more ways than just to provide entertainment.

“You know what they say: A cultured community brings economic development,” Mathews said.

In the meantime, the theater staff and committee have reduced costs and raised funds. The 2020 budget is now $96,320. The committee reorganized the staff, raised ticket prices and changed the theater’s schedule to save money and expect to take in $62,275 in revenue. In January, the projected cost of operating the theater was $145,366 with $57,466 in expected revenue.

For Jensen, being the theater manager means more than just selling popcorn and booking the movies.

“It’s nostalgic for me,” Jensen said. “I saw my first movie at this theater. It was ‘E.T.’ I was 7 or 8 and I had worked all day to get my chores done so I could go see the movie. Working here brings so much nostalgia. I went here, now my kids go here. There really is nothing like going to the theater.”

The theater regularly screens movies five days a week, beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are $6 for general admission, $4 for seniors and the Sunday matinee and $2 on Monday.

Concessions are available. Event schedules, prices and movie times can be found on the theater’s new website — www.pittsfieldtheatre.wixsite.com/pittsfieldtheatre.

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