An Island hotelier has announced ambitious plans to restore two historic Vineyard movie theatres to their former glory.

Mark Snider, owner of the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown and the founder of a new nonprofit, is finalizing an agreement with Benjamin Hall Jr. to lease the Capawock and Strand theatres for 10 years, beginning this summer.

Named the Martha’s Vineyard Theatre Foundation, the nonprofit will lease and renovate the theatres while the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society manages day-to-day operations.

Historic Capawock theatre in Vineyard Haven has been shuttered since 2013, but plans are in the works to begin showing movies there againt his summer. — Mark Lovewell

“My hope is that it’s really the community that embraces this,” Mr. Snider, a lifelong Vineyard moviegoer, said in an interview with the Gazette this week.

Mr. Snider is simultaneously beginning a campaign to raise $1 million to refurbish the two theatres by Memorial Day, when he hopes to reopen them for business. With the funds, Mr. Snider hopes to renovate the buildings and install digital screening equipment at the Strand, which is in Oak Bluffs, and the Capawock in Vineyard Haven.

Once at the cutting edge of cinematic technology (Mr. Hall’s grandfather brought talkies to the Vineyard), the theatres fell victim in recent decades to a decline in movie attendance as well as rising screening costs and a national shift from 35mm film projection to digital projection, Mr. Hall said in an interview this week. He confirmed that an agreement with Mr. Snider is nearly complete. “We are very excited to have such an effective and dedicated leader like Mark Snider to head the team that is going to take over and lease the theatres from us and restore and rejuvenate them to a level of grandeur that maybe they never achieved before,” he said, speaking to the Gazette by phone on Thursday.

Mr. Hall is a trustee who representsthe theatres’ ownership. He said the project would inject new energy into the iconic theatres.

The Strand stopped showing movies in fall of 2011, the Island in 2012 and the Capawock in 2013.

Since then, the Hall family has come under fire for the declining state of the three cinemas — the Strand, the Capawock and the Island, another theatre in Oak Bluffs. Now, major improvements are planned for all three buildings, including the Island, which is not part of the current agreement but which Mr. Snider hopes to lease in the future.

“This year, the goal is just to make it look different,” he said of the Island Theatre.

Mr. Snider’s business plan calls for the film society to operate the theatres along with its current cinema at the Tisbury Marketplace. Film society executive director Richard Paradise said the new screens will allow the society to diversify its programming and reach a wider audience.

Film team Mark Snider and Richard Paradise. — Ivy Ashe

“There are wonderful synergies and complements to having those two theatres downtown and operating again,” he said.

At his current center, Mr. Paradise is only permitted to show films after 7 p.m. during the summer months. Access to downtown venues will remove that barrier, and bring a younger demographic, Mr. Paradise said.

“The frequency and diversity of films will be greatly expanded,” he said. He also said while the film center’s location attracts few spontaneous viewers, the downtown locations will catch the passersby.

More screens also means more visibility. Some film studios require the theatre to guarantee a certain amount of screen time for the films they distribute; this can be a challenge for small theatres that can’t bank on attracting a large audience to several showings of the same film.

The Strand has 250 seats while the Capawock seats 210.

A love of film and Vineyard history initially drew Mr. Snider to the project. “Since I was a kid, I loved the theatres — all of them and I just was very sad when they shut,” he said.

Still, he said there were risks.

“The challenge is to take the past and make it relevant to today,” he said. “What we have to do is we have to transition these theatres from a model that wasn’t working to something that will work and will become meaningful to people.”

His success depends on raising the funds to refurbish the theatres, and on buy-in from the community, he said.

“We have to survive,” Mr. Snider said. “No business ever survived based on idealism. It’s hard work.”

While he praised Mr. Snider’s abilities, Mr. Hall said only one thing can ensure the success of the venture: the movie-going public.

“Once the lights come on and they put the flicker on the screen, people have to fill the seats, and that is the most important thing,” he said.

Mr. Hall said his family will provide financial support to the organization.

“That is part of our good will to show how excited we are that somebody with some foresight and capacity is stepping up to try to make a go of the theatres,” Mr. Hall said.

The theatres will operate on flexible seasonal schedules, and will accommodate community events, Mr. Snider said.

In addition to providing what he hopes will be a quintessential Vineyard experience, he said the theatres will also drive spending downtown.

“This whole thing is only going to work if everyone says, ‘this is special and we really want to support it,’” Mr. Snider said.

For information about how to support the venture, write to info@mvtheaters.org or call 508-310-7837.

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