Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation prepares for Strand reopening

MVTF programming director Richard Paradise sees synergy, not competition, in multiple theater venues.

Michael Cummo

Mark Snider, Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation (MVTF) founder, only had moments to revel in the success of the grand reopening of the Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven this past weekend before directing his thoughts toward the grand reopening of the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs on Friday, June 19.

“There’s no rest for the weary,” Mr. Snider said, following a gala private opening Friday night headlined by Carly Simon and her children, and a public opening Saturday night.

“We get one open and then we have three weeks until the next one,” Mr. Snider told The Times in a phone conversation Monday. “We have plenty to do. We’re still raising money, and we still need to raise money, and we have a lot of work to do, but we plan to open on June 19.”

Mr. Snider said that despite a lot of recent activity, the MVTF is still $165,000 short of its $1 million goal.

The MVTF will host an invitation-only event at the Strand Theater on June 19. Mr. Snider said the details of the event are still being put together. The theater will open to the public on Saturday, June 20.

Crews worked right up to the last hours prior to the Capawock welcoming its first audiences in years.

“Some of the light switches aren’t the way they should be, and some of the locks need to be adjusted, but those are typical problems,” Mr. Snider said. “The important thing is that it worked. People enjoyed it, they had a good time, and I hope they come back.”

If the reopening of the Strand goes anything like the Capawock Theater’s, which did not receive its occupancy permit until 3 pm on opening day, Mr. Snider will be looking forward to a well-earned rest.

“I’ll be happy when it’s June 21st,” Mr. Snider said.

Different audiences

On Friday evening, Carly Simon, joined by her children Ben and Sally Taylor, performed for a packed room of invited guests, many of them supporters of the foundation. The performance was followed by a showing of the feature film Pitch Perfect 2, a movie about a college a capella group.

The combination of a live performance and film provided the audience with a taste of the theater’s adaptability. The MVTF’s goal is to use the venue for a number of different types of events.

“For our first live stage performance, it went off really well,” MVTF programming director Richard Paradise said. “It proved that having the retractable screen is going to make a big difference. It just gives you so much functionality and flexibility in using the theater — as opposed to just having a movie screen at the front of the proscenium.”

Mr. Paradise is also director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, which operates a film center in the nearby Tisbury Marketplace. He said he was very happy with the success of the entire weekend. About 80 people attended the Saturday-night screening. He said that only four were film society members.

“That shows to me, which I’ve thought all along, that we’re going to be attracting a different audience to the Capawock, and most likely to the Strand, than our regular customers who come to the film center,” Mr. Paradise said.

Which, according to Mr. Paradise, is part of the draw of having multiple theaters on the Island.

“Obviously there will be different movies playing in different venues,” Mr. Paradise said. “I’ve always tried to program the film center to the likes and dislikes of the community, and our audience and membership, particularly.”

He said the Capawock and Strand theaters will play movies that are more commercial in nature, and will appeal to a broader general audience. He said the films will likely be more family-oriented, noting that the Capawock Theater will be screening Disney’s Tomorrowland this weekend and Pixar’s Inside Out in a few weeks.

“These are movies that I would never have screened at the film center,” Mr. Paradise said. “The film center will be the location where more of the art-house films take place. That’s how we’ll be balancing.”

He also said that having multiple theaters will provide options regarding show times. The three theaters will stagger show times, so the time that a viewer would like to go see the movie will dictate which theater he or she may choose. He said location will also provide balance.

“Each community is different,” Mr. Paradise said. “Obviously in the summer in Oak Bluffs there’s a lot of foot traffic, and people will want to walk to the movies. The film center is more of a destination — you drive to that location, you don’t want to walk to it.”

Mr. Paradise has no fears about balancing three theaters on the Island; rather, he welcomes the diversity.

Mr. Paradise and Mr. Snider are buoyant about the crowds and enthusiasm the Capawock Theater generated this past weekend, as well as the potential for the Strand Theater moving forward.

“We’re excited about the public coming to join us as we move forward with the summer season,” Mr. Paradise said.