The Latchis building on the corner of Main and Flat streets in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
The Latchis building on the corner of Main and Flat streets in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Thursday January 24, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Latchis Theatre is going to kick off a year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary this weekend with a special showing of the 1938 screwball comedy "Bringing Up Baby."

Demetrius Latchis opened the theater at the corner of Main and Flat streets 75 years ago and Latchis Arts, which owns and operates the theater, is showing the Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant film at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26. to celebrate the theater's history.

Admission for the event will be by donation.

Latchis Arts is about halfway through its $550,000 fundraising campaign to upgrade the ceiling and chairs in the historic theater, and Managing Director Gail Nunziata said the film this weekend is only the first of what will be a full year of special events and milestones for the theater.

When Tropical Storm Irene flooded Flat Street the Latchis Theatre was closed for seven weeks, and the fundraising campaign was postponed while the theater, and town, recovered.

Nunziata said the board did not plan to raise money and celebrate the 75th anniversary at the same time, but now both events will make for a very busy year.

"This is not the way we planned it," Nunziata said during an interview in her office which overlooks Flat Street. "We would be moving ahead with the fundraising campaign regardless but this gives it all nice energy. And it's a great excuse to have a party."

The board is still working on the programs to commemorate the 75th anniversary, said Nunziata, but after being delayed by Irene, The Heavens and The Earth campaign to replace all 750 seats and refurbish the ceiling is now back on schedule.

"When we were closed people let us know how valuable we were to them," Nunziata said. "It was nice to feel so valued and now we want to do what we can to reflect that back. We are doing this because this community deserves it."

After running a silent campaign for more than a year Latchis Arts is now offering single seat sales for donors who want to contribute.

Orchestra seats are $1,000, seats in the rear of the theater are $500 and for balcony seats donors can give $250.

Each donation will come with a brass tag on the back of the seat to honor the donor.

Six of the 12 zodiac signs on the ceiling are also looking for contributors.

The wood inlay on the ceiling will be completely refurbished, ceiling "starry night" lights will be added and the entire carpet will be replaced while the seating is up.

Nunziata says the main theater will be closed in August and September this year while work is done, and the new theater will be celebrated with a grand re-opening sometime in October.

Along with the film this weekend, Latchis Arts is holding a red carpet gala on Feb. 24 when Hollywood's annual award celebration will be shown on the big screen.

Admission to the Feb. 24 event is also by donation and food and drinks will be for sale.

Nunziata said Latchis Arts is busy even when the complex is not trying to raise half a million dollars and celebrate three-quarters-of-a-century in business.

The annual a capella concert is scheduled for Feb. 2, New England Center for Circus Arts has the theater booked for March 2 and 3, and on April 6 Spell Check returns to help raise money for Latchis Arts.

Since purchasing the theater, hotel and adjoining property from the Latchis family in 2003, Latchis Arts has invested $855,000 in upgrades, which has included renovations to the lobby and the addition of a fourth theater and digital equipment.

Nunziata said the capital campaign to renovate the main theater will ensure that customers are comfortable while watching movies and shows for at least the next 75 years.

To donate to The Heavens and The Earth campaign call Nunziata at 254-1109 ext. 3 or send an email message to gail@latchisarts.org.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.