It was a sight unseen for the last two years on Main street, Vineyard Haven: the easy conversation amongst friends standing outside the Capawock theatre after a movie, bathed in the yellow light of the old-fashioned building with green and red trim.
The re-opening of the movie theatre on Wednesday night was ample reason to celebrate. Downtown residents delighted in walking to the movies again instead of driving. Business owners revelled in seeing life on the streets after 9 p.m. All rejoiced in the return of the theatre whose distinctive quirkiness was not lost in the new paint and upholstery. Few cared what movie was playing, so much as there was one.
"Oh my gosh, I wouldn't miss it," said Sandra Kingston, who walked from her house in Vineyard Haven. "I was coming from Owen Park, and I looked down the street and said, ‘Oh my gosh, it's lit up!' It was so thrilling to see."
The Capawock had been closed for renovations since 2004, stirring up frustration in the community, which missed the nighttime "movie crowd" that came to downtown and inspired shops to stay open later and people to stroll the sidewalks longer. After missing prospective re-opening dates in August 2005 and April 2006, the owners in August presented a new goal of Nov. 1.
"I just thought, it's taken so long, we should support it," Vineyard Haven resident Jackie Silverstein said of the opening, sitting beside her movie date, husband Bob. "I hope it will add to the economy of the town."
Brothers Brian Hall and Benjamin Hall Jr., who own the theatre, worked until the final hour to make the building ready for the screening of The Boynton Beach Club, a romantic comedy about retired 60 and 70-somethings who meet at a local bereavement group. In addition to the Capawock, which the brothers' grandfather Alfred Hall bought in 1932, the Halls own the Island and Strand theatres in Oak Bluffs. When the Capawock is completely finished in a few weeks, the Halls will host a grand opening party, Benjamin Jr. told the audience. Books of tickets will be available for purchase, to help support the theatre, and a movie club will start up as well.
By the time the Capawock's doors opened, there were no workers, drop cloths, dust or debris in sight. During his welcome address to the audience, looking dapper in a dark blazer and red tie, Benjamin Jr. pointed out the new seats, carpeting and paint - and one additional change in light of the Island's political leanings. "We've adjusted the aisle," he said. "It's just slightly left of center."
He also pointed out that things were not perfect yet - some of the paint was still wet, some ceiling tiles were ajar, some seat rows were not straight, there were no cup holders on the front seats and the concession stand wasn't open yet. But no one expected things to be perfect - in fact, some hoped they wouldn't be.
"That's what we love about this theatre," said Jeanne Hupprich of Vineyard Haven, with her husband Jim, fondly reminiscing - without sarcasm - about what had gone wrong at every movie she had ever seen at the Capawock. "To be honest, I have a headache and I didn't want to come out at all - but this is so important to me."
Between visual problems, sound problems and the occasional full stop followed by a refund, Mrs. Hupprich said she has seen and heard it all at the Capawock.
"One night the projector fell off the table," Mrs. Hupprich said gleefully.
"You could hear it," Mr. Hupprich affirmed. "It crashed to the floor."
When The Boynton Beach Club stopped abruptly for several seconds in the middle of the movie, the audience laughed and applauded with enthusiasm.
For Joanna Horgan, who lives just up the road from the Capawock, the movie theatre was the site of a landmark moment in her life about five years ago.
"One of my fantasies was to come to the Capawock and see people I know," Ms. Horgan said. After living in her house for six months, it happened one day. She walked down the aisle in the theatre and she was welcomed unexpectedly. "It's a nice, nice neighborhood feeling," she said.
During the two years she spent renovating the house before she moved in, Ms. Horgan commuted to the Island every weekend. "I used to not even take anything out of my car, I'd just come straight to the movies," Ms. Horgan said. "I can't wait to do that again."
Some of the moviegoers on Wednesday night had little in the way of Capawock memories, but they had plenty of curiosity.
"The last time we were here, it was before we were in high school," 11th grader Rachel Fauteux of Oak Bluffs said, flanked by her friends Heather Dube of Oak Bluffs and Eli Maine of New York. "We couldn't remember anything," she added.
Miss Dube agreed. "I forgot completely. When we came in here and bought the tickets, I sort of remembered," she said. "It looks pretty much the same - but newer."
None of the friends knew what to expect from the Boynton Beach Club.
"I have no idea what this movie is," Miss Fauteux said. "We just wanted to come."
It was the first trip ever to the Capawock for Sharon and Gary Katsaris of Newport Beach, California - in fact, it was their first trip to the Island.
"We came a long way to see a movie," Mr. Katsaris laughed. When the couple heard about the opening, they couldn't miss it.
"We talked to a lady today who told us the story of what happened," Mrs. Katsaris said. "We had the same type of situation in our little town." In the Katsaris's neighborhood, a small, independent theatre like the Capawock went out of business. The difference was that it happened after a large chain cinema moved nearby.
"We realized we needed that small town feeling," Mrs. Katsaris said, adding that she hopes the small theatre will eventually be able to reopen in their town, too. It's uncertain though whether the community of Newport Beach will support its little theatre as Islanders supported - or rather demanded - the Capawock.
"It's kind of like the Islander," Mr. Hupprich said, comparing it to the Steamship Authority ferry slated for retirement. "You never want to see it go away."