Fate of Chatham’s silver screen remains in limbo

CHATHAM–The lights on the Crandell Theatre’s marquee will be dark a while longer. Keith Flint, the lawyer for the estate of theater owner Tony Quirino, who died suddenly in January, said the theater will not open again until it’s sold to a new owner.

Mr. Flint said that Mr. Quirino’s estate is in the process of being “administered.” He said there had been at least three parties interested in buying the historic theater on Main Street, but no offers can be made until the estate is settled.

One of the interested parties is the Chatham Film Club, which had been raising money since the fall of 2008 in anticipation of buying the theater. Mr. Quirino, who owned and ran the theater for almost 30 years after buying the business from his father, planned to retire in June. The club announced its plans to buy the Crandell at the group’s annual film festival, FilmColumbia, in October 2008.

“I’d like to see it go to the film club more than anything,” Mr. Quirino’s widow, Sandra, said in an interview this week. She said it was Mr. Quirino’s wish for the film club to carry on the tradition of first-run family films at the theater, which has been in business since 1926. “I want what Tony wanted,” said Ms. Quirino. But she also said that she would have to take the highest offer to cover costs associated with the estate.

Sandi Knakal, president of the Chatham Film Club, said the leaders of the club “anticipate making our offer soon.” The group is still raising money through its Crandell Legacy Campaign.

She said that Mr. Quirino was “wonderful to work with,” and though he planned to retire, he assured the club he would stay on to help them get the hang of running the theater. Ms. Knakal said Mr. Quirino did everything around the theater from running the projector to fixing leaks.

If members do raise enough money to buy the building, they will also have to hire someone to run the movies. And the club wants to upgrade the theater,  with the costs of the improvements included in the original $1.5 million the group planned to raise. Mr. Knakal said that if the club can make a deal with the Quirino family to buy the theater, the group will still need to continue its fundraising.

For more information on the campaign go to www.thechathamfilclub.com.

“We miss him,” Ms. Knakal said of Mr. Quirino. The club has been hosting the FilmColumbia in the theater for 10 years and has worked with Mr. Quirino for 12 years, showing special films monthly on Sunday afternoons.

“I want people to keep donating,” said Ms. Quirino of the Crandell Legacy Campaign. She said she has received hundreds of condolence cards and phone calls since Mr. Quirino’s death. She thought about running the theater herself with help from a part-time projectionist, but realized it was too much. “It was 24/7” for her husband, she said of the work at the theater. For now, she said, “The lights are out on Main Street.”

Both Ms. Quirino and Mr. Flint declined to name the two other parties who have expressed interest in buying the theater, although they did say those parties expected to keep the Crandell functioning as a movie theater. “That’s what [the space] is built for,” said Mr. Flint.

Mr. Flint said once actual offers are made, the process of transferring ownership could move quickly.

Ms. Quirino said that if the film club buys the theater, she would be proud to attend the reopening.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

Comments are closed.