The Temple Theatre on the north side of Market
Square is one of the oldest continuously operated
movie theatres in the great State-O-Maine.
In the early days of cinematic Houlton, there
were several movie theatres in town. In 1907
the New Past Time Theatre opened on the corner
of Water Street and Market Square. It was
located on the ground floor of what is now more
familiarly recognized as Key Bank. The Bijou
opened its’ doors that same year on the second
floor of what is now the Putnam Arcade on the
south side of Market Square.
The cinematic history of Houlton continues with
the short lived Orpheus followed in 1911 by the
Dream Theatre which was located on the ground
floor of the Opera House on Court Street next
to the present Houlton Pioneer Times building.
This grand-sized theatre closed in 1926 never
to reopen after the plaster ceiling fell down.
In 1919, The Temple Theatre was opened in the
newly constructed Masonic building on Market
Square. E.J. Bolan, the architect of the Masonic
Lodge, had produced a fine cinema in a conjured
style of grandeur featuring a central lobby with
terrazzo floors, an attractive ticket booth with
a curved glass front and glitzy brass railings
to set the mood of movie anticipation.
Nearly 100 people were present for the April
29th Monday evening grand opening. The first
nitrate celluloid hand cranked through the
projector at The Temple starred Madge Kennedy
in “A Perfect Lady”. The front of the theatre
was equipped with an orchestra pit as in the
days of yore, the flicks were silent. Bryson’s
eight piece orchestra provided the melodic
backdrop for cinematic entertainment.
The theatre was leased and operated by one G.
Beecher Churchill of Fairfield. Being the
upstanding morally wholesome individual that he
was, “no picture was shown on the screen unless
it had been previously exhibited to either Mr. or
Mrs. Chruchill”. A different movie was shown each
day with the exception being Sunday when the
theatre was closed. The price of a child’s
admission was one thin dime and adults had to fork
over fifteen large (cents). Originally, the
projection booth was located at the rear of the
balcony and the concession stand was where the
current projection booth is located today. In the
1980s, the single screen theatre was split with
the construction of a wall down the center of the
auditorium in order to provide greater film title
In 2002, after years of neglect, The Temple was
leased by Therese Bagnardi and Michael Hurley.
Although the theatre has been modernized with new
cinema seating, sound systems, carpeting, paint
and paper; every opportunity to save original fixtures
was taken. This is evident in the lobby lighting
fixtures, interior stained glass and wood work.
After many months of renovation, back breaking work,
cleaning and planning, The Temple reopened on November
1, 2002, once again rolling film in the style of grandeur
for which it was originally intended. In 2004 the Temple
Theatre purchased the Temple building and the parking
lot formerly known as the "Key Bank parking lot".
In the years that followed, the Temple Theatre has hosted thousands of theatre goers. We saw the addition of the Gateway Crossing Footbridge and the Houlton Riverfront Park and trail, Coastal Enterprises built the beautiful Market Square apartments at the back of our property. We fired up Zippy’s the very successful hot dog and burger joint we established on our property next door which ran for a number of years until we had to refocus on running a movie theatre. Together with the Houlton community we have had many thousands of kids and families at the Free Holiday. The biggest change came in 2014 when we went digital with a full conversion to modern digital projection and state of the art digital sound with all new speakers, sound, servers, etc. In 2015 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Manager Patrick Blanchette’s stewardship of the Temple Theatre.
All this time the Temple Theatre was being prepared for local ownership. In the fall of 2015 we determined to create an essay contest to find that new owner. Over the last century there have been many owners and managers. The Temple Theatre has run continuously for nearly 100 years. We are all just passing through. Soon; a new page will be written in the Temple Theatre’s history and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
One thing is for sure... we’ll see you at the movies.