There is bad news for Islanders and visitors hoping to catch the latest blockbuster at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven this summer. Owners of the landmark Main street movie house said this week that the Capawock will remain closed at least until August.
"In all honesty, it is too stressful to put myself on a timeline, and I shudder to commit to a date. But we are shooting for an August 1 opening, and we are doing the best we can to get there," said Brian Hall, who with his brother Benjamin Hall Jr. owns and operates the Capawock. They also own the Island and Strand theatres in Oak Bluffs.
On Wednesday this week Mr. Hall said that the renovation of the old building, which has been closed for the better part of a year, has fallen behind schedule and that a series of setbacks have hampered his efforts to reopen before the busy summer season.
In January Mr. Hall said he anticipated reopening the theatre in March. At the time, he said he had purchased new seating and carpet and was preparing to paint the interior. He also said the bathrooms and concession area were both slated for makeovers.
But this week Mr. Hall said the repairs are still pending. He said he had been distracted by pressing maintenance issues related to other properties owned by the Hall family - specifically, Mr. Hall said maintenance and electrical work on the former Bickerton and Ripley bookstore in Edgartown forced him to redirect his attention in the last several months.
As a result, the Capawock remains empty and dark.
"I can't just throw a crew in there and let them go to work. I have to be there to direct them," Mr. Hall said. "It's an old building, it's a place of assembly and that requires a lot of regulations and oversight on my part. I'm only one man."
Mr. Hall said the theatre, which was purchased by his grandfather, Alfred Hall, in 1932, is still in about the same shape as it was this winter. He said he and his crew are currently working on the floor, which when finished, will be painted before the seats are installed and the carpet is laid. The concession stand and bathrooms are also still in need of cosmetic work, and the bunting that covers the walls needs refitting.
He also said work on the old Murray's building next door, another Hall family property, has left a large pile of debris in the courtyard that has contributed to the project's delay.
Mr. Hall confirmed reports that a pipe burst over the winter and flooded part of the theatre when the furnace stopped working around Christmas. But he said the damage was minimal and only set the renovation project back two or three days.
Mr. Hall refused to allow a newspaper photographer inside the theatre.
"It's a construction site," he said.
To complicate matters further, the town is in the middle of repaving and adding new sidewalks to Main street. On Tuesday the Tisbury selectmen requested that the town department of public works (DPW) push ahead with the project to complete construction and repaving by June 26. Mr. Hall said the Capawock will get a new apron to meet the new sidewalk, but he said it has been difficult to coordinate with the DPW.
This marks the longest closure for the Capawock in years. In 1997, Mr. Hall's father, Benjamin Hall Sr., closed the movie house for several weeks because of lower-than-expected revenues. In 1970, the Halls closed the theatre for several weeks for improvements and redecorating.
The locked-up theatre has been the source of much conversation in town.
"Part of the charm of Main Street is that you can walk to a theatre, a bookstore and a movie house, all within a stone's throw of each other," said Susan Goldstein, who owns the Mansion House hotel and its restaurant Zephrus. "Without the Capawock, there is really a big hole, and I think the town has felt both a huge financial loss as well as a neighborhood loss."
"I think the impact on the community is the same as not having a grocery store or a pharmacy in the downtown," said Tisbury Business Association president Jeff Kristal. "There is no question the Capawock's closing has hurt businesses that want to stay open later and attract that movie crowd. Unfortunately, we just have to bite the bullet a little bit."
Cindy Curran, the owner of Cafe Moxie, which sits just across the street from the theatre, worries that the closure will leave Main street a shadow of its former vibrant self.
"It just seems like Vineyard Haven isn't alive anymore," she said.
But for those who fear the Capawock may remain closed for good, Mr. Hall has a message.
"It's going to reopen, and I want that to happen as soon as possible. I get about four people a day asking me when the Capawock will start showing movies again. I understand people's anger, but I am doing the best I can. Missing the season is not good for us either."