Theatre reaches 40th anniversary

William Clarke
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Springdale may bid farewell to icon

Celebrating 40 years this month, Twilight Theatre has seen a lot of changes in the industry - and society - since Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello drew its first crowd with Fireball 500.

That was back in 1968 when cable TV was still a dream and options for entertainment mirrored life in the big cities. Since the theatre's opening, technology has had a massive impact on what used to be a social event. The Whitehorne family has seen their business chiseled away, first by VCRs and now by DVDs and Internet piracy.

David Parsons has been employed at Springdale's Twilight Theatre since 1979. This winter could be the small town theatre's last. William Clarke photo

Springdale - Celebrating 40 years this month, Twilight Theatre has seen a lot of changes in the industry - and society - since Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello drew its first crowd with Fireball 500.

That was back in 1968 when cable TV was still a dream and options for entertainment mirrored life in the big cities. Since the theatre's opening, technology has had a massive impact on what used to be a social event. The Whitehorne family has seen their business chiseled away, first by VCRs and now by DVDs and Internet piracy.

"The biggest change is most of the small theatres are gone," says Brian Whitehorne. "I can remember the crowds that used to be here when I was growing up."

"We had two movies a night at one time. Every night. Sunday nights back in the 1970s and early 80s, there was always 100 people or more here."

Mom, Hallie says it's easier for people to have a theatre at home unless it's a special event. That's led to the slow demise of the province's movie houses.

"There's only three left in the province," she said. "Grand Falls is gone, Carbonnear is gone, Stephenville is gone, Gander doesn't have a theatre... all of these bigger places, they're just gone."

Back at home in Springdale, the theatre still runs the two projectors they purchased when the building opened. With those 50-year-old projectors even today valued at $50,000, Brian said it would be pretty difficult to open a new theatre for under $1 million and he figures Twilight Theatre has survived over the years because of its small size.

"This might be our last year," he said. "People aren't into going out to movies like they were."

Hallie said the best movies they get in are for kids aged eight to 18, and family movies - as long as they continue to be made.

"For most people, it's just a night out," she said. "That's what we find when we have a family movie."

She remembers well the times where the theatre was so full, they had to turn people away. Brian said they played Titanic 22 nights straight and filled the theatre about 10 times, but it's not the novelty it was in the early days.

"Little theatres now, you can't build them because the population's not there," he said. "It's been a good 40-year run. When you stay around 40 years, you're not doing too bad."

Organizations: Twilight Theatre

Geographic location: Springdale, Grand Falls

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