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Filmgoers In Montpelier, Vermont Have A True Gem In The Savoy Theater

By Paul Rowe

In its current incarnation, The Savoy Theater has flourished in Montpelier since 1981 when Rick and Andrea Winston began converting a Main Street flower ship into a movie theater. Rick and his brother John designed and constructed the upstairs theater space to include a dazzling 130 seat movie theater. During these renovations, Rick and John were informed by the landlord that the space had once been an operating theater opened by an Italian family who called it the Savoy, named after the region in Italy of the same name where their ancestors came from. From that day forward the theater regained its old name, The Savoy.

"In 2006, the Winstons sold the theater to Terrence Youk who later added a second screening room in the basement where there had formerly been a video store," owner James O'Hanlon said. "The video store was moved to another location, was later closed, and the collection eventually became the Savoy archive, which is free to our members."

During the renovations that Mr. Youk oversaw, the upstairs concession area was reconfigured and a handicapped accessible bathroom was added as well. In September 2016, O'Hanlon purchased the theater business from Mr. Youk. Today, The Savoy is a mainstay in the small community of Montpelier, known as an art house theater showing first-run independent films. The film selection process that O'Hanlon goes through is fascinating, and reveals much of the mantra behind the theater and its relationship with the Montpelier public.

"I choose the films we show based on what I think our audience here wants to see. We have a wide sampling of audience members and I want people to remember the films they see here and the experience they have at our theater," O'Hanlon said. "I try to research the films I choose as much as possible before I commit to them. If a film is available but I feel it has no merit, I most likely will not pick it up. Similarly, if I feel the content of a film is inappropriate or offensive I will probably stay away from it."

Though still primarily an art house theater, The Savoy features films of all genres and styles, from new independent films and cult classics all the way down to the mainstream blockbuster. Simply put, there is something for any film lover.

"For the most part, because I have more than one screen and can show more than one film at a time, I try always to have something that will appeal to most audiences," O'Hanlon said. "his actually gives me the freedom to show some of the more obscure films that might not otherwise make it to the screen from time to time."

Showing such a diversity of films allows The Savoy to draw in large audiences on a nightly basis. One crowd pleaser hosted here is the Green Mountain Film Festival, originally founded by Rick and Andrea Winston when they owned The Savoy. This exciting, renowned festival provides a unique opportunity to see films that are making the rounds on the festival circuit and films from around the world that one may not be so familiar with.

"The festival has a very solid following because the line-up is usually quite good," O'Hanlon said. "To be able to find a film festival of this caliber in such a small area is pretty impressive. We sometimes bring some of those films back later in the year."

The Savoy promises to be a staple of Montpelier's unique film culture for years to come. Montpelier locals agree: The show must go on.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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