Maine’s Oldest Cinema Saved Through Philanthropic Purchase

Courtesy of the Hawthorne Collaborative

A year after closure, the immediate future of Maine’s oldest cinema, the Colonial Theatre, has been secured. A Belfast-based non-profit formed to manage and preserve the theater, which is seeking support and donations to create a sustainable community cinema and performance venue for Waldo County. The Hawthorne Theatre & Arts Collaborative has secured philanthropic backing for the purchase of the Colonial, with a reopening scheduled for Saturday, November 4th.

Bill and Libby Catania have been central to the creation and support of Hawthorne. Having moved to the area in 2022 to open Limina Renewal Center, a spiritual retreat center, the Catania’s passion for supporting the community drew them to save the Colonial. Doubling down on its role at the heart of Belfast’s community, Hawthorne Collaborative plans to use the three-screen cinema to accommodate a wide variety of offerings reflecting Waldo County. The revamped programming include a mixture of new releases, independent and classic movies, and more live performances. The Collaborative’s members were keen to express their gratitude to Therese Bagnardi and Mike Hurley, saying their steadfast dedication as ‘caregivers’ for nearly 30 years is the only reason the Colonial will open mere weeks after the property has changed hands. To help ensure some continuity, the Colonial’s former operations manager, area native Kyle Walton, will be Hawthorne Collaborative’s first executive director.

“In an increasingly divided culture, community theaters provide a gathering place, helping people feel a sense of connection while enjoying performances that can open hearts and minds,” said Libby Catania.

Mike Hurley and Therese Bagnardi added, “We’ve been looking for the next generation and a correct model for the future of Belfast’s beloved movie theater. We couldn’t be happier and more excited with those who have stepped forward with a visionary plan to lead the Colonial into a new future.”

Kyle Walton, Hawthorne Collaborative’s first executive director, shared, “Having attended the Colonial for thirty years and worked at it for an elapsed time of over twenty, I can say from experience how important this cinema is to Greater Belfast. In addition to what happens inside the triplex, it’s hard to imagine Belfast without the bit of magic that Ma Hawthorne (the building’s iconic life-sized elephant) and Colonial’s neon marquee provide to the entire downtown district. The board & staff know that continuing its 111-year-old legacy is a cause worth fighting for. We’ve been unbelievably lucky to have the backing to make this purchase. Hawthorne will need more help to make this institution sustainable for future decades. The Collaborative is looking for volunteers, sponsors and donors of all sizes. In particular, we have a generous offer of matching funds up to $50K from a local donor, and achieving that goal will put us in a strong position from the day we open the doors.”

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Courtesy of the Hawthorne Collaborative
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