As new owner of the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, Shaun Boyle has invested about $10,000 in improvements that include a new screen and sound array. Contributed

BRUNSWICK — Shaun Boyle had a few goals in mind when he purchased the Eveningstar Cinema four months ago.

First, there were a few underwhelming items the 39-year-old Brunswick man had to deal with, he said: Optimizing how showtimes are listed and tickets are sold online, and creating an employee manual, for examples.

But then came the more exciting projects: A new screen that is optimized for digital projection, a new speaker array behind that screen, a new optical glass port designed to reduce the loss of light from the projector and replacing the drape and frame that surrounds the screen.

The single-screen independent cinema may only seat 74, but it now has the technological assets to compete with any modern movie theater.

“Ninety-nine percent of people don’t care, but there’s that 1 percent who pick apart the projection, and I specialize in projection in my day job. I’m like, ‘yeah, I get it,'” said Boyle, an executive producer for corporate events, in a Nov. 8 interview.

By coincidence, these changes occurred around the 40th anniversary of Eveningstar, which opened at the Tontine Mall on Nov. 2, 1979. The theater had to shut down this Nov. 4 to allow a theater service from Connecticut to make the improvements, but the theater was back up and running the following day.

Boyle recalled a similar “art house” style theater, near the college he attended in western Massachusetts. Patrons at the theater accepted the fact that the presentation was not optimal. But “for me that’s the only way a theater can continue to compete and expand its audience; you’re offering a presentation that’s as good as (multiplexes) Regal or Smitty’s,” Boyle said, adding that Eveningstar is also competing with ultra-high-definition televisions in home theaters.

The theater’s specialty-market content also helps, with offerings such as “Downton Abbey” and “Harriet” available. “There’s strong product right now, so I think that’s how you compete,” Boyle said.

But Eveningstar must expand its audience base beyond the core, devoted patrons often filling its seats, he said, expressing a desire to attract more students from nearby Bowdoin College. “It’s sort of like finding those ‘bridge’ films,” to draw in a broader range of ages, he said.

Debora King, executive director of the Brunswick Downtown Association, said Monday that having a locally owned theater that runs most independent films is a great draw for residents and visitors to Brunswick.

“As our resident population increases, coupled with the proximity of Bowdoin College, Eveningstar provides a great source of entertainment and arts to our downtown community,” King said.

“It’s a place that needs to exist, and it’s been so beloved by its community and supported by it,” Boyle said. The improvements are “a considerable investment, but it’s one that had to be done for the theater to step into its next phase.”

Along with the audio-visual investments have come closed-captioning and assistive and descriptive listening devices for those with difficultly hearing and seeing.

“The Eveningstar often shows movies not screening anywhere else in the area and no one should ever feel excluded,” Boyle said.

The couches that lined the front of the theater are gone, too. For one thing, their absence improves wheelchair accessibility.

“Also, people both loved them and hated them,” Boyle said. “I was on the ‘hated’ side. … I always heard from people that didn’t come to the theater: ‘Oh, that’s the theater with the nasty couches.'”

Seats from a row in the back, which lacked leg space, have been moved to the front. The shift, which also includes improved wheelchair access and companion seating, has reduced the total number of seats to 74.

Boyle purchased the theater July 1 for about $50,000 from Barry Norman, with whom he had worked on summer programming.

Boyle compared the difference in audio and picture quality to night and day. He had seen two of Eveningstar’s latest offerings, “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit,” in his travels, so he knew how they should look on a modern screen; thanks to the improvements, “it looks good,” he said. “It’s like a relief.”

Longtime Eveningstar manager Gracia Babbidge, who had hoped to raise enough money to buy the theater but remains there under Boyle’s ownership, echoed those sentiments Monday.

Fitting into a space not designed to be a theater is part of Eveningstar’s uniqueness, she said, and “it’s nice to see it go from someplace place with character to someplace with character and improved presentation.”


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