Brunswick cinema employee hopes the show will go on

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BRUNSWICK — Gracia Babbidge started her career in cinema operations more than two decades ago by scooping popcorn.

Now, with a decision by the owner of Eveningstar Cinema to sell the single-screen theater, she’s trying to purchase the place she has managed for the last 15 years.

Babbidge is running a GoFundMe campaign to raise the $50,000 needed to purchase the 40-year-old business.

“I’ve been working part time for a while, so obviously I didn’t have the ability to save up that amount of money or secure that kind of loan on my own,” Babbidge, who lives in Bowdoin, said. “I know we have so much support in this community for this theater and I think we can raise the money to keep it open.”

Owner Barry Norman – who bought the 149 Maine St. business in 2010 and over the years has renovated it, and contemplated closing it or rebuilding it as a crowdfunded multiplex – said he decided to sell the single-screen theater now because his health is declining.

He said he plans to move to Massachusetts at the beginning of May, believes in Babbidge and supports her effort to buy the business.

“She’s done everything in this business, from serving at the concession stand to changing the reels and overseeing our conversion to digital,” he said.

Babbidge said she knows Eveningstar “top to bottom” and believes the theater is a vital part of the community.

“When I first came here as a customer I thought, ‘Wow, what a groovy little place,” she said. “Then years later I started working here and I just would be so sad to see this place go. We play movies that other theaters in town don’t.

 “We offer something unique here and there would be a huge void in this community without this theater,” she said.

If Babbidge doesn’t secure the funds she needs, Norman said he might consider managing the business remotely until she can get enough money to continue operations.

Ideally, Babbidge said she would like to raise $17,000 as soon as possible “to keep things going.” As of Wednesday morning, six days after she the crowdfunding campaign launched, she had raised just over $3,600.

I know that (the) details – like having real butter available for the popcorn, and couches that are cozy for seating– are what we can keep doing to keep this theater different than any other in the area,” Babbidge said.

“I don’t want to see this theater close,” she added. “People drive from all over to come to our theater because we show movies that other multiplexes don’t. Without us, it’d be a huge piece missing from Brunswick.”

Patti McDonald can be reached at 780-9123 or pmcdonald@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @pmcdonaldme

Gracia Babbidge is trying to purchase the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, which she has managed for the last 15 years.

Barry Norman, owner of Eveningstar Cinema in downtown Brunswick, behind the theater concession stand June 2018. He hopes to sell the business because his health is declining.

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