Tony Quirino owned historic Crandell Theatre in Chatham
CHATHAM–The marquee of the Crandell Theatre is still lighted on Main Street even though the man normally standing at the ticket booth is no longer there. Anthony Quirino Jr., better known as Tony, died suddenly Sunday. He was 62.
Mr. Quirino’s father, Anthony Sr., bought the Crandell in the 1960s, but Tony owned and operated the theater for the last 25 years. He did just about everything at the theater from selling tickets to running the projector to cleaning up. He and his wife, Sandy, who worked concessions, were there most every night.
He had other jobs and worked at different businesses, including owning an auto repair shop in Ballston Spa. He was a Vietnam veteran who received a Bronze Star. But he grew-up in the Crandell, telling this reporter during an interview once how he used to fall asleep behind the screen while his parents ran the theater.
The Crandell opened on Main Street in 1926 and has only been run by two different families in the intervening 84 years. Mr. Quirino was actually on the verge of retiring when he died unexpectedly. The Chatham Film Club has been raising money, through the Crandell Legacy Campaign, to buy the theater and plans to maintain his tradition of low ticket prices and family-friendly films.
“The film club is totally indebted to Tony for giving us the opportunity to host movies at the Crandell Theatre,” said Film Club President Sandi Knakal in an email after Mr. Quirino’s death. For 10 years the Chatham Film Club highlighted the Crandell Theater by organizing a popular film festival. During the festival, called FilmColumbia, there could be several full houses a day in the 534-seat theater, making for a busy time for Mr. Quirino.
“He was our partner from the beginning and we are very grateful to have shared over a decade of history with him,” Ms. Knakal said.
Interviewed during the film festival in 2008, just after the club announced its plans to buy the theater, Mr. Quirino wanted to make it clear then that the business was doing well and he was just ready to retire. He talked about the upgrades the theater would need to meet the new demands of digital movies. But he also said he would be very involved in the transition, passing on the theater that meant so much to him.
“Right now the film club wants to support and respect the Quirino family during this time of great sorrow,” said Ms. Knakal, “Ultimately, we intend to do whatever we can to keep the marquee lights on at the Crandell Theatre for the entertainment of future generations.”
People contacted for this story said they were shocked and saddened by this sudden loss of such a constant figure on Main Street. “A man of few words, Tony nevertheless has been central to the life of this community,” said Judy Grunberg, a local business owner and the founder of PS/21 and a town resident. “He took over the business seamlessly after his parents retired and made it his own.”
Ms. Grunberg said she had a brief conversation with Mr. Quirino a few days before his death and said he looked more relaxed. “Maybe, I thought at the time, because he was looking forward to his imminent ‘retirement’ after so many years of having to be at the site night-in and night-out, no matter what.”
Mr. Quirino’s obituary appears in this edition.