Capawock Stays Closed for Now

Rising Discontent Over Theatre Leads to Closed-Door Meeting Where Hall Family Pledges to Open by November 1

By MAX HART

In the aftermath of a closed-door meeting last night with town and business leaders, the owners of the Capawock movie theatre have pledged to reopen the Vineyard Haven cinema by Nov. 1 or sooner.

Public discontent over the closure of the Capawock, which has been shuttered for more than two years, spurred the drive to somehow reopen the Main street theatre, a key part of downtown life in Vineyard Haven.

Two weeks ago, a group of both summer and year-round residents met in private at the Crocker House in Vineyard Haven to discuss the possibility of issuing a citizen-petitioned warrant article at a special town meeting calling for the taking of the movie house by eminent domain. Such a move has legal precedence, but town leaders have yet to suggest the move.

Following last night's private meeting with Brian and Ben Hall Jr., selectman Denys Wortman said, "The bottom line is we just want the theatre open. It was a very cordial, constructive meeting with a lot of good ideas kicked around."

Brian Hall, who confirmed the Nov. 1 deadline, also described the meeting as positive.

"They offered to help us in just about any way they can, but the most valuable ideas were how to keep it open and a viable business," Mr. Hall said last night.

Also, Mr. Hall said a number of people at last night's meeting were unaware that his family planned to reopen the theatre. "Probably our biggest mistake has been not to have communicated to the public that we are indeed reopening," he said.

Mr. Wortman said he and Jeff Kristal, the operator of the Crocker House Inn and former president of the Tisbury Business Association, plan to meet weekly with Brian Hall to establish and hold to a timeline to reopen the theatre.

Last night's meeting, held at Mr. Wortman's home, came in the wake of a swelling grass roots movement to reopen the Capawock.

At their meeting Tuesday night, the Tisbury selectmen said they would support taking the theatre by eminent domain if such a petition materialized.

"I would support getting it open by any means possible," selectman Thomas Pachico said. "My patience has runneth out."

Board chairman Tristan Israel added: "I support using as much creativity as we can to get this movie theatre open, and I am supportive of this citizens' group and have expressed that.

"Having said that, if they go to town meeting and it's $3 million or $4 million and we don't have any alternative funding, I can't say that I would sit here and vote for that."

Before last night's meeting with the Halls, Mr. Kristal said: "There is a large group of citizens who have become organized who want to work towards not only getting the Capawock open but in sustaining it so it can remain open.

"We want to help the Halls in any way we can, but also feel like this is the last chance the community is willing to give them in getting this thing done," he said.

The Capawock theatre is located on a parcel of property that also houses the old Murray's building to the north. The assessed value of the land and two buildings is $1.27 million.

The Capawock has been closed for two years for the renovations, despite the Halls' expressed intentions to reopen earlier.

In June of 2005, Brian Hall, who is managing the renovation, said he anticipated the reopening by August of that year. Along with his brother Benjamin Hall Jr., Mr. Hall owns and operates the Capawock. They also own the Island and Strand theatres in Oak Bluffs.

Yet the theatre remained closed through the holiday season. In February of this year, a voice on the answering machine of the movie line for the Halls' theatres announced the theatre should be ready by April at the latest.

Before yesterday's meeting at Mr. Wortman's house, Mr. Hall expressed frustration over recent public criticism as well as his own disappointment about the delays in reopening the building.

Mr. Hall, who has been handling the renovation of the historic theatre, has reported that most of the interior work has been completed, including new carpeting, new paint and new seating.

But he refused a request to photograph the inside of the building and would not be specific as to what work needed to be completed.

"Progress is being made regardless of whether a citizen's group wants to step in and help us or not," Mr. Hall said. "It has always been our plan to open the Capawock, and we will. But I am just not going to give anybody a deadline. We have progressed quite a bit, but there are a lot of things to finish.

"It's hurting us as well - we're losing money," he said.