All Eyes Are On The Bellows Falls Opera House

Cider Magazine Bellows Falls, VT May, 2012

All Eyes Are On The Bellows Falls Opera House
All Eyes Are On The Bellows Falls Opera House

BELLOWS FALLS, VT. - The Bellows Falls Opera House has been a historical mainstay and vital cultural entity in BF's downtown area for over eight decades and remains, perhaps, the town's most recognizable landmark with its unique, classic revival style and majestic six-story clock tower.

Photo by Joe Milliken

The Town Hall and Opera House building was originally constructed in 1926 and from 2004-2006, underwent a $3.7 million restoration project in which the Opera House was renovated to accommodate both movie and live performances.

It is exciting to see the continued success of all the shows and regular weekend movies," Bellows Falls Town Manager Tim Cullinen said in an exclusive Cider Magazine interview. "They offer first and second-run films at the lowest price of any theatre in the area, featured on one of the largest screens in the state. Attendance varies depending upon the films shown, but very recently (showing "Hunger Games") we had over 320 paid attendees."

The building renovation project included new, state-of-the-art movie, sound lighting equipment, a rigging grid, catwalk and full-height fly space, a new greenroom, multiple dressing rooms and a total seating capacity of 553, including 372 main-floor seats and another 181 balcony seats. There is also a downstairs studio space and a second, smaller stage for meetings, lectures and dinners as well.

"The building is a huge economic driver," local Bellows Falls artist and promoter Charlie Hunter said in a recent interview. "With the capability of bringing 500 people a night into our downtown; obviously, most events will be far less than that, but we have the capacity capability; the mix of current movies, classic movies and live events that can appeal to such varied constituencies.

"It's architecture is phenomenal; the fact that it hasn't been cubby-holed into a multiplex like so many other old theaters - helped in our case by the fact that it's also the town hall - is huge. Also, I love the fact that the re-lighting of the clock is the symbol of the beginning rebirth of downtown Bellows Falls."

The Opera House has hosted some amazing events over the years, including orchestral performances by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Alash Ensemble, theatre performances with Sandglass Theatre's International Puppet Festival and GUTWorks, musical performances such as Dar Williams and Greg Brown and other events such as the comedy of Rusty DeWees and Cider Magazine's own "Cider Awards" show.

"Several area promoters are also in the planning stages for more live events ­ both in the Opera House and in the Lower Theater," Cullinen said. "Cider Magazine's awards event was very successful and they are considering other concert events as well. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) also had a great turnout in March and have already booked a return date in September 2012.

The Classic Film Series runs on Wednesday night and is planned out well into 2013 and live events ­ such as the VSO and 'First Thursdays' offer varied programming and great exposure for the both the facility and the Village of Bellows Falls. "Wednesday was a previously "dark night" for the Opera House," Cullinen concluded. "But we have averaged over 150 attendees for the Wednesday showings.

"I also know of one local food establishment that will be open on Wednesday when they had previously been closed, to capture some of that business. The management of the "soon to open" restaurant in the Windham Hotel (Popolo Restaurant) are very pleased to see the number of attendees at all events and are planning to do some joint-promotions with the Opera House as well."