Houlton theater to host statewide karaoke contest with $1,000 prize

1 month ago

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton’s historic Temple Theater on Market Square will host its first modern-day live event when karaoke hopefuls from Maine and New Brunswick vie for a $1,000 grand prize.  

“We have a fantastic sound system, a giant screen and a library of 80,000 songs to pull from,” theater owner Fred Grant said, adding that the venue has a history of live performances dating back to 1919. 

Inspired by Hollywood glitz and glamor, The Karaoke Showdown is slated for 10 p.m. on July 3 after Houlton’s fireworks show. All songs must have been in a film, according to Grant.

Visual elements and audience participation are a big part of karaoke’s popularity and Grant said that’s why it makes perfect sense for the contest to be held at the theater. 

The Temple Theater is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the state. When Grant, president of Northern Maine Media Inc. and owner of Market Pizza in Houlton, purchased it last June, he said advancing technology makes live and live streaming events possible there. 

Grant’s Northern Maine Media operates WHOU 100.1 FM radio and WHOU live streaming. 

Grant and his team brought in high tech laser projection, a state-of-the art sound system, obtained a liquor license and upgraded the twin theaters 400-seat venue. There are 200 seats for the karaoke show.

Many of the registered showdown talent, hailing from Canada and all over Maine, shared with Grant that they are professional singers and most have already selected their songs including Whitney Houlton’s “I Will Always Love You” from the Bodyguard, “Suddenly Seymour” from the cult favorite Little Shop of Horrors and “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. 

Grant said the talent roster is just about full, although they may take a few more contestants and have a preliminary elimination round. 

During the contestants’ performances, a camera will project their singing onto the giant screen along with photos from the film. Selected songs must be submitted by June 23 to allow time for the creation of song graphics for a movie montage, Grant said.

“We have multiple options for display, ” Grant said, adding they started setting up the theater on Monday for the event and they are very excited.

“People will be talking about that for a while,” he said. 

A panel of judges including Maine Music Society Artistic Director Rick Nickerson of Windham, voice teacher Sharon Walker of Hodgdon and Chris Putnam, WHOU morning show DJ, and the audience will evaluate performances based on vocal ability, stage presence, and how well they embody the Hollywood theme. 

The first place prize is $1,000 and second place is $500.

Throughout the evening, the theater will be serving beer and wine, food and their famous popcorn. 

“Our vision has always been to utilize the theater for a variety of live performances, and this competition is a perfect example of that,” Grant said. 

During a recent Town Council hearing regarding the theater offering karaoke downtown, Grant said they are an entertainment place and looking to expand beyond canned movies to live entertainment and other things new to the community.  

“If you have a good voice, or not, we’d love for you to sign up,” he said. 

The council approved an annual permit for live events at the Temple Theater. 

“I just want to speak in favor of Fred and the Temple Theater,“ said Johanna Johnston, executive director of Southern Aroostook Development Corp. during the public hearing. “He’s such an entrepreneur, generating new services to offer the community. “

Admission to the karaoke show is $10.