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Gibson’s to host author event on Concord Theatre

  • The Concord Theatre: Concord's Love Affair with the Movies, by Paul Brogan. Courtesy photo—

Monitor staff
Published: 5/17/2019 1:38:20 PM
Modified: 5/17/2019 1:38:07 PM

Paul Brogan has fond memories of the Concord Theatre.

He began working at the downtown movie establishment when he was a student at Bishop Brady High School in 1967 and was there just about every day till 1975. Over the next two decades, Brogan was a regular on the weekend nights, doing whatever he could to help out owner Theresa Cantin before the independent movie house closed its doors for good in September of 1994.

“I was there right through the final show,” Brogan said, which was Andre, the story of a seal who befriends a girl and her family.

It was during those times that Brogan learned the ins and outs of the movie theater business, where he heard all kinds of great stories from Cantin’s 61 years of ownership and his love of the cinema grew into something that’s hard to measure.

“She really treated me like a contemporary despite the age difference,” Brogan said. “I’d ask questions and she was always very forthcoming.”

Over the last handful of years, he started to talk more about those days and share more of those stories. He wrote a My Turn for the Monitor, gave presentations on the Concord Theatre and even taught classes on it at the Learning Institute at NEC and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Granite State College.

“The response from people was amazing,” Brogan said. “And there was this curiosity factor from people who had never been there.”

Each time, he left amazed at the stories he heard and the questions he got until finally he decided that he should write a book.

“I thought ‘what is going to happen to all these great stories?’ ” Brogan said.

It took about a year and a half to write, spending five hours a day, five days a week. Brogan estimates he spent more than 1,800 hours on the project.

“There was no hair pulling, no writers block,” Brogan said. “It was really easy once I sat down to write.”

On Thursday, Brogan will be at Gibson’s Bookstore for an author event that means quite a bit considering its in his hometown with a book about his hometown movie theater.

The Concord Theatre, Concord’s Love Affair with the Movies is a story about how important film was to the New Hampshire state capital.

“It’s really a story of the community and how movies played a big part in our history,” Brogan said.

While Brogan’s experience and expertise lies in the history and story of the Concord Theatre, this story is about more than the Main Street movie house that spent 61 years occupying a special place in the community. It’s about how the movies brought people together.

“I think the book tells the whole story, including the 61 years of the Concord Theatre,” Brogan said.

From the first movie images shown in Concord in 1896 to the independent theaters like the Concord Theatre and Cinema 93 as well as the chain theaters, the multiplexes, the drive-ins and the neighborhood theaters, Brogan tries to cover it all.

“Concord had the good fortune for decades, having two independent theaters operating at the same time,” Brogan said. “A lot of places in New Hampshire, Manchester, Nashua, didn’t have that.”

Brogan spent many hours researching the book. From the notes he jotted down as a teenager and young adult to interviews with those who frequented the Concord Theatre during its six-plus decades in operation. He looked through old magazines and newspaper clippings, both in print and on microfiche.

“It was arduous, but it was a labor of love,” Brogan said.

Before the South Main Street location was transformed into the Concord Theatre, it was a family bakery for 70 years, Brogan said. And after sitting vacant for decades, the Bank of N.H. Stage, a new performance venue, will open next month – giving new life to the once proud arts-centered location.

The event will feature Brogan reading a chapter from the book – when he and Cantin went to see an x-rated movie that had been proposed to be shown at the Concord Theatre – as well as a question and answer session. It begins at 6 p.m. at Gibson’s Bookstore, and is free and open to the public.

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