Written by Daniel Hartill, Staff Writer, Sun Journal
LEWISTON — The owners of She Doesn’t Like Guthries plan to create their own theater.
Randy and Heather Letourneau, who opened their restaurant seven years ago, have knocked out a closet wall in the back of their 115 Middle St. eatery to access to the former Maple Room theater at 22 Park St.
They plan to curtain the windows, erect a screen on the small stage and create a seating and dining area. If all goes well, they plan to begin showing independent movies by early November.
They’re also asking for help.
The Letourneaus have begun a campaign on website Kickstarter to help them raise $7,500. With two weeks left, the site has 43 backers and pledges worth more than $3,200. To see the video pitch, go to guthriestheater.com.
“We’re going to open it one way or another,” Randy Letourneau said. If (Kickstarter) works, I can fast forward. Instead of waiting three years for everything to be really nice, maybe if the community is as excited as we are, we’ll get a needed boost.”
One boost will come from years of experience hosting events in the small restaurant, from movies to live music to storytelling.
“We do so much in this small space that it becomes almost overwhelming,” Randy Letourneau said.
Guthries screened movies for the former Lewiston Auburn Film Festival and continues to host monthly Maine Microcinema screenings. Last September, it also hosted “The Corner,” a series of monthly storytelling events with people giving short, first-person monologues.
Music will remain at the restaurant, Letourneau said. But the new theater will host movies and storytelling and even improvisational comedy.
Colin Kelley, one of Maine Microcinema’s producers, believes the venue could draw new people to the area. Though the community has lots of movie screens with Flagship Cinemas in Lewiston and Auburn, they rarely run the kind of independent movies featured at art-house theaters like Railroad Square in Waterville or Brunswick’s Eveningstar and Frontier cinemas. Currently, Portland has no full-time art-house theater.
“I think having something like Guthries cinema is going to draw people who may have been overlooking the city before,” Kelley said. “And I think they’re going to be surprised at what they find.”
Kelley believes Letourneau’s food offerings — the restaurant plans to offer a theater menu of entrees, appetizers and movie munchies at the theater — will also be a draw.
“Part if it will be eating a delicious burrito and enjoying one of those cold, frothy beverages in that space,” Kelley said.
The atmosphere ought to be familiar to anyone who has spent time at She Doesn’t Like Guthries, Randy Letourneau said.
He doesn’t imagine row upon row of chairs in the theater. Rather, Letourneau plans on a mix of tables and laid-back seating. Visitors to the theater will enter on Park Street — there will be no public connection to the Middle Street restaurant — and pass through a ticket lobby and into the intimate theater space.
Capacity will probably be fewer than 100 seats and tickets will be kept under $10, he said.
“The goal isn’t for ticket sales to generate the revenues,” he said. Proceeds will likely come from the food.
It will give them the flexibility to keep admission prices down and curate the films, he said.
It’s the kind of deal that’s worked in the restaurant, where filmmakers and bands do not get paid from the restaurant. Rather, they pass around the hat after a screening or concert for people wishing to donate. The restaurant also hangs original art on its walls and takes no cut of any sales.
“We’re booked almost a year in advance for music. We’re booked almost a year in advance for art on the wall,” Randy Letourneau said. “We hope it’s going to be like that in the theater.”