Fundraiser underway to save iconic Fort Kent theater

1 month ago

FORT KENT, Maine – Just hours after its announcement, a fundraiser to save The Century Theater in Fort Kent has already received close to $2,000 and over 100 shares on Facebook. The theater, living up to its name, is over a century old.

It began in 1917 and was originally called The Savoy Theater. A group of investors known as The Modern Woodsmen of America purchased an old barn to house the theater. It moved from the lot where the town post office now sits to what is now The Century Theater’s parking lot on Hall Street. 

The theater changed owners in 1969, Fort Kent’s 100th anniversary, and opened in a new building in its present location. It was named The Century Theater after the town’s centennial celebration. 

The theater, which is now owned by Ben Paradis, shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time in its history. It reopened in 2021, but temporarily shut down again in early 2023 for what was originally intended to be a short period of time. 

Paradis’ granddaughter Anastasia Paradis, who manages the theater with her significant other Brandon Goding, said that they have since heard a great deal of feedback from residents about reopening.

“Since then, we’ve had a lot of community members coming up to us in town, asking when we were going to open and offering to aid in whatever way they could,” she said. “So due to popular demand, we’re going to really try this thing again and dedicate all our available time and resources to seeing the theater succeed.”

She said the community’s positive feedback and support inspired them to launch the fundraiser.

“I’m deeply grateful for the overwhelming response,” Paradis said. “It reflects the community’s eagerness to see The Century Theater thrive again, and it fuels our determination to make it happen.”

The theater, according to the gofundme page, is seeking $60,000 in order to continue operating in the community. Of the total, $45,000 will be used for updates and repairs, including renovating aging infrastructure, upgrading the electrical system, and improving and repairing the building’s structure, equipment, and plumbing.

The remaining $15,000 will fund operating expenses for the first year, including concessions, movie feeds, property taxes, insurance, sprinkler inspections, and electrical fees.

If the fundraising goal is met, the theater will not only show films, but also become a venue for local comedy shows, live music, and live theater performances.

Throughout her time at the theater, Paradis said countless visitors have shared childhood memories about their moviegoing experiences. Paradis said she has fond childhood memories of helping her aunt, Kim Paradis, when visiting her grandparents during the summer. She would sell tickets and make popcorn and cotton candy, and her aunt would trade her a movie ticket in exchange for helping to clean up at the end of the night.

“I always said I’d be back to run it one day, and it feels surreal to actually be doing it now,” she said.

Looking ahead, she said they are considering fundraising events in the near future including a bottle drive and a “popcorn drive” where popcorn will be sold in the lobby for donations, as well as a “membership program” that allows community members to support the facility.

Paradis wrote in the fundraiser announcement that she hopes the theater’s legacy can continue.

“Let’s come together as a community to preserve our cherished theater and create a space where memories are made for generations to come,” she wrote.