By Shawn Magrath
Sun Staff Writer
NORWICH – It seems that the closing of the Colonia Theater in downtown Norwich will be for only a brief moment. The building now has a new owner and plans are in the works to keep movie reels rolling and the iconic marquee lit.
Norwich resident Todd Barnes closed on the Colonia Theater building last week with the intent of renovating the building’s interior and reopening doors to moviegoers sometime in the near future. In the process, Barnes will be working with his brother, electrician and the former owner of the business, Rich Barnes.
Earlier this month, Rich Barnes and his daughter, Colonia General Manager Jeanie Barnes, were forced to shut the lights off at the Broad Street movie house, citing demands of the movie industry to upgrade their equipment to play digital copies of movies – a move that would cost the business nearly $150,000. There are benefits to playing digital, Rich explained. Digital movies come with better sound, better picture, and it permits movie theaters, including the Colonia, to show movies as soon as they’re released. Regardless, the cost to upgrade posed a threat to small theaters nationwide. Many like the Colonia closed for the same reasons: cost was too high and the fiscal resources weren’t available.
Rich and Jeanie had rented space in the building from an absentee building owner who, according to Rich, had been reluctant in allowing even minor renovations to the 99-year-old building. Now in the hands of two local owners who footed the $200,000 purchase price, the interior of the building will receive a complete overhaul. Renovations include, among other things, a redesigned lobby, repairs to the two screening areas, and current plans are to painstakingly restore the theater’s balcony that has been closed off for decades. When the theater reopens, Rich said he will take the reins again as the business owner...