Meet Me At the Weston

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By Mike Bisceglia

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, April 28, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Scene.]

Weston Theater isn't simply any theater. It's the newly opened entertainment area of the Lane Memorial Library. Located in the basement of the building, this multipurpose room now has a new purpose: showing quality, nearly-current movies.
"Bag 'em up, serve 'em out!" Lane Friends Norman Grearson and JoEllen Pine work along side library staffers Darrell Eifert and Amanda Reyonlds Cooper to prepare the many bags of popcorn to be served in the recent showing of The Blind Side.

The house lights dim. Whispered conversations are drawn to hasty conclusions. The aroma of hot popcorn wafts across the crowded room. The screen brightens, and the audience smiles in anticipation.

This scene could describe almost any movie theater at show time, but the Weston Theater isn't simply any theater. It's the newly opened entertainment area of the Lane Memorial Library. Located in the basement of the building, this multipurpose room now has a new purpose: showing quality, nearly-current movies. And, judging by the growing audiences, the Weston is likely to pack 'em in for some time to come.

The Weston is not the first Hampton movie theater. In 1898, the Electro-rama, located at the base of Great Boar's Head was destroyed in a tornado. In June, 1913, the Olympia Theatre, located at the corner of 'C' Street and Ocean Boulevard opened its doors. About the same time, the Casino Theatre and the Barn Theatre offered the best Hollywood had to offer. The Strand and the Olympia, located near the beach were destroyed in a fire in 1915. Some years later, movies were shown in the town hall. In short order, the Winter Barn Theater, now American Legion Post 35 Hall, opened its doors on October 2, 1942. It lasted until March 31, 1951. In 1980, the Hampton Cinemas began operation at the corner of Winnacunnet Road and Lafayette Road. The final box of popcorn was sold on February 15, 2009.

"The Weston Theatre was named in honor of a former patron, Richard Weston, who left a sizable donation to the Lane Library in his will," stated Library Director, Amanda Reynolds Cooper. "He and his wife, Ann Marie agreed they could find a practical use for the sum." Practical indeed. The Library Trustees and the Friends of the Lane Library believed the theater would be the perfect addition to the library's many services.

The quality of each showing is second to none, since each movie is offered in a blu-ray, high-definition, surround-sound experience. The seats are comfortable and staggered for maximum viewing enjoyment, and the best feature of all ... there is no admission price, and the popcorn is free!

"This is my first movie here," said movie buff Jean Wyngaeit, "but I love it. It is a great, handy place for seniors to meet and be entertained."

Lois Standers and Roseanna Wright are thrilled with the Weston. "Our whole bridge club meets here for a movie. And, the picture is so sharp. It couldn't be better!"

Bertha Smith, Barbara Driscoll and Joan Pollard are planning to make the Weston a regular item on their to-do lists. "We think it is grand, and the price is unbeatable. Free is always terrific."

One of the younger viewers, Marston fifth-grader, Jackie George gave the Weston rave reviews. "My class was very disappointed when The Hampton Cinemas closed. Now, I get to go to the movies with my grandmother, and we have a great time. I get to see my classmates here, too. This is really great!" Jackie's grandmother, JoAnne Baron agrees. "This movie experience is an absolute treat. I don't know anybody who isn't happy about it."

Mrs. Reynolds Cooper says that the number of movie patrons is growing with each showing, but there are more surprises in store for the venue. "Soon, we're going to hang works by local artists along the walls. Then, we will truly offer a gallery and theater for our community."

Darrell Eifert, Head of Adult Services, said there are plans in the works to have a discussion group to meet after selected movie showings. "I think being able to talk about and critique the showings here will only enhance the nature of the theater." Currently, the Weston is open to adult movie-goers weekly on Thursdays and Saturdays. A pre-school fare is open to parents and children on Friday mornings. The Weston and its services are available to civic, business, and school groups.

"We encourage our residents to take full advantage of what we have available at the library," said Mrs. Reynolds Cooper. "I think once people experience all that the Weston and the Lane Library have to offer, they will very likely return again and again." Recent offerings included: "Sherlock Holmes," "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and "The Blind Side." And my personal critique on the Weston Theater four stars with two thumbs up.

A screen's eye view of the audience In the Lane Memorial Library's Weston Theater.
Lois Stander and Rosanna Wright remember Hampton's theaters of yesteryear, while enjoying the state-of-the-art Weston.
Marston 5th grader, Jackie George, and grandmother, Joanne Baron enjoy popcorn and a movie at the library.
Bridge Players, Bertha Smith, Barbara Driscoll, and Joan Pollard, are avid movie buffs.
Jean DeWyngaeit finds theater-going at the Weston to be handy for seniors.
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