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History

The Colonial Theatre first opened its doors on January 29, 1924. Located in the heart of the city of Keene, New Hampshire, on Main Street, it quickly became a focal point for the arts. Owner Charles Baldwin proudly called it “New England’s most modern and perfectly appointed theater.” Over the years, the Colonial has hosted movies, vaudeville shows, operas and numerous community events. Some early highlights include Metropolitan Opera star Rosa Ponselle singing four encores of “O Sole Mio”; Thornton Wilder reading from The Women of Argos; Amelia Earhart lecturing on the possibilities of cross-Atlantic air travel; and Maude Adams performing Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. By 1945, the theatre’s stage no longer held actors in pursuit of their craft as it had done so proudly for the previous 16 years. Instead, celluloid movie stars captured the attention of audiences. The majesty of The Colonial began to disintegrate over time. By the early 1990s, it looked like the only remaining historic theatre in Keene might not survive.

In 1991, a small group of devoted Keene citizens decided that The Colonial Theatre must be saved. By 1993, they had established the theatre as a nonprofit organization and had begun to articulate a clear mission. Their efforts resulted in the hiring of an administrative staff and $2 million in grants and private donations from the community for infrastructure renovations. By March 3, 1995, the restored hardwood stage was in use once again.

Since then, more than 350 live performances have entertained and enlightened audiences of all ages at The Colonial. Award-winning films are shown nightly on the largest state-of-the-art movie screen in the region. In 2004, The Colonial Theatre was added to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.

As we begin our third decade as a not-for-profit organization, we are proud to continue the tradition of excellence for which The Colonial has become known.

  • 1923: Construction begins under the direction of architects Harold Mason of Keene and Steven Haynes of Fitchburg, and builder Glenroy Scott of Winchester
  • 1924: The Colonial’s opening night is January 29. The premier film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney, is shown. Owner Charles Baldwin gives away 6,000 free tickets.
  • 1925: Theatre purchased by the Latchis family
  • 1929: Thornton Wilder begins spoken-word tradition reading The Women of Argos
  • 1932: Amelia Earhart lectures on the possibility of trans-Atlantic air travel; Maud Adams performs Twelfth Night
  • 1945: Live entertainment is discontinued
  • 1984: Steve Levin and Ira Gavin purchase the theatre; live entertainment returns
  • 1991: Local citizens explore nonprofit status for The Colonial
  • 1993: The Colonial Theatre Group, Inc. officially purchases property at 95 Main Street
  • 1994: Phase I renovation (infrastructure) begins with help from Keene Economic Development & Revitalization Corporation and local businesses
  • 1995: Keene Lions Club presents My Fair Lady, which is the first live-theatre performance on the stage in 50 years
  • 1997: Phase II renovations (restoration and beautification) begin with help from more than 300 individual, foundation and corporate supporters
  • 1999: Keene Mayor recognizes The Colonial as “a historic landmark in downtown Keene”
  • 1999: Marquee is restored and lights up Main Street
  • 2000: Phase II restoration is completed
  • 2004: Sprinkler system is installed in theater auditorium; “Colonial Corner” space is refurbished
  • 2004: The Colonial Theatre is named to New Hampshire Register of Historic Places
  • 2014: The Colonial Theatre celebrates it’s 90th birthday and 20th year as a nonprofit theatre

95 Main Street
Keene, NH 03431
Box Office: 603/352-2033
Business Office: 603/357-1233
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