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Magic at the Top of the Stairs | Wilton Town Hall Theatre

Magic at the Top of the Stairs | Wilton Town Hall Theatre
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Lighting is everything when it comes to aging movie stars; no less so when it comes to this handsome brick edifice possibly past its prime. The Wilton Town Hall Theatre, carved into a steep hillside in the center of Wilton, New Hampshire, was young when vaudeville came knocking.

The interior of the dusky town hall is comfortingly dim, masking more than a century’s worth of time-inflicted scars and imperfections. It smells like a movie house from the 1950s, the scent of roasted popcorn saturating the wooden walls and creaky upholstered seats. The few bright lights are reserved for the two auditoriums that face each other across the ticket lobby; the smaller “Screening Room” was once the vaudevillians’ changing room.

From stage acts to silent films to war newsreels, and then a local kid, Dennis Markaverich, learned to thread film through the old projector and a few decades ago took over the theater, showing the movies he loved, flagrantly following his own inclinations–indie, artsy, good first-run films that were harder to find north of Boston. He added a silent-film series, complete with pianist; an ongoing movie trivia contest with ticket prizes; prices that invoked nostalgia ($7 adults, $5 seniors, active military free); enough legroom to dance; fresh (cheap!) popcorn with real butter; and sometimes live cello music at the top of the long staircase that twists upward to the lobby.

This movie addict is quick to name his all-time favorite, too. “Lawrence of Arabia,” Markaverich says, without missing a beat. Naturally–they’re both renegades, and that’s what infuses the WTHT with such authenticity and unexpected charm. For best old-time movie theater, nothing beats the dark magic at the top of the stairs. 40 Main St., Wilton, NH. 603-654-3456; wiltontownhalltheatre.com

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