Four friends throw open the doors and turn back on the (neon) lights at the Colonial Theatre.
Seated, from left: David and Stacey Fiorillo and Lenore and Marc Mallett plan to turn North Canaan’s Colonial Theatre into a thriving center for community events and entertainment.
By Cynthia Hochswender
Photo by Cynthia Hochswender
Children dream of becoming astronauts, firefighters, star athletes. Their parents dream of taking charge of a newspaper, a restaurant, or a movie theater. It all sounds so fun! But of course nothing worth dreaming about is easy. It all requires work, and an array of skills.
Four residents of Salisbury with diverse talents have joined forces to bring one dream to life, with their purchase of the historic Colonial Theatre in North Canaan. It does sound fun to own a theater, but they know it won’t be easy, in a world where cinema fans got in the habit of streaming movies at home during COVID.
The new Colonial owners are brainstorming ways to help the Art Deco theater—first built in 1923 and refurbished in the early 2000s—to once again become a place where families and friends can meet for a night out. Those evenings are likely to look very different from the spectacles presented by past owners of the 140-seat theater: The Colonial in its heyday was a first-run theater with live entertainment preceding films (from black-and-white silents in the early days to full-color “talkies”). There was a ballroom upstairs, and a bowling alley in the basement, for less formal fun. Over time, as ballgowns gave way to bobby sox in America, the ballroom was converted to a roller rink.
Today, the upstairs ballroom (large enough to hold 140 people) is an open space with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and a movie screen. Owners Marc and Lenore Mallett and David and Stacey Fiorillo are brainstorming ways that residents of area towns might use it: There could be fitness classes. There could be seasonal fairs, with perhaps vendors of high-end clothing and cosmetics.
For the main theater (which has 140 seats), there are plans in place for Boondocks Film Society—which screens cult films at parties that include food and craft cocktails—to host an event this autumn. Marc Mallett would love to do a James Bond film series; his wife thinks it would be fun to show older popular films such as Mean Girls.
There is likely to be a community fundraising and outreach component to all events. Marc Mallett (a former vice president of advertising sales for Walt Disney Co.) and David Fiorrillo (who works in finance for the Marvelwood School in Kent, and consults with area schools) are discussing ways to turn the theater into a learning opportunity, where students can take on aspects of running an event at the Colonial while raising money for school projects.
“Above all, we want to embrace the community, and create some stability in the ownership of the theater, which has had some ups and downs over the past few decades,” explains Stacey Fiorillo, who does genetic testing and works with her husband at his consulting business.
For now, the future is bright and wide open for the Colonial. Learn more at canaancolonial.com or @ColonialTheatre