MISSION
Envisioning an enlightened and enriched community.  Through relevant arts and cultural programming we nurture the heritage, prosperity and aspirations of the communities we serve.

Located in the heart of The White Mountains in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, the historic Colonial Theatre is one of the oldest continuously operated movie theaters in the country. When The Colonial opened its doors in 1915, the era of the Grand Hotels was in full swing and Bethlehem was a premier destination resort. Because of its sophisticated clientele The Colonial quickly became a venue for studios to test market their films. With its rich history The Colonial remains one of the remaining links to the era of the Grand Hotels as well as a significant chapter in the history of the film industry.

Now, after a series of renovations and improvements, the 300-seat Colonial offers state-of-the-art digital projection and surround sound for independent and world cinema, hosts Grammy award-winning performing artists, family entertainment, and community events from May through October—all without losing the intimate charm of a vintage summer theater.

The Colonial Theatre is on NH registry of historic places and was named “Best Vintage Movie Theatre” by Yankee Magazine.

New Hampshire Homes  March 2018
The Colonial Theatre is Beautiful

Stay Work Play NH   October 26, 2017
Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry

Littleton Courier   October 25, 2017
Colonial Theatre charts course for the next century

Littleton Courier   October 18, 2017
North Country Crowdfunding at The Colonial A Success

Stay Work Play NH    July 27, 2017
Ganstagrass at The Colonial

Stay Work Play NH    June 22, 2017
The Bethlehem Colonial Theatre

Take Magazine    May 14, 2017
13 New England Indie Movie Theaters Not To Miss

Littleton Courier   May 10, 2017
Longevity and sustainability at The Colonial

WRENzine   March 11, 2017
What’s New at The Colonial?

New Hampshire Union Leader   January 27, 2017
Construction begins on theater improvements

Littleton Courier   January 25, 2017
Colonial Theatre sets the tone for area arts and philanthropy 

Caledonian-Record   January 24, 2017
Colonial Theatre Looks To Future

The Littleton Record   February 26, 2016
Revival Theatre

The Littleton Record   January 29, 2016
Bethlehem: Colonial Theatre Advances Renovations Fundraising

Colonial circa 1920

The Colonial Theatre was built by Karl Abbot, scion of Bethlehem hotelier Frank Abbott. In the summer of 1914, as documented in K. Abbott’s 1950 memoir Open for the Season, Abbott, and with his then partner “Doc” Clark, brought the new century to northern New Hampshire first by converting the family stables to house Humpmobiles, “flivvers” and Stanley Steamers, and secondly by housing that other most significant icon of those “Modern Times”. “The vacant lot across the street at which I happened to be looking suddenly took on a vision — before my eyes rose a modern movie house with electrically lighted marquee.” By spring of the following year construction was complete and the Colonial Theatre opened for business July 1, 1915 featuring Cecil B. DeMille’s The Girl of The Golden West.

The Girl of the Golden West

Account ledgers of that year note a payment to the architect “Kennard”. Francis J. Kennard of Tampa Florida was introduced to Karl Abbott on the occasion of the construction of the Gasparilla Inn at Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, Florida, which Abbott was opening circa 1910. Kennard already had a reputation, having designed the largest wood framed building in Florida, the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel in Bellair (1896) with architect Michael J. Miller, and would go on to design many other significant buildings in the area including the Lee County Courthouse, Fort Meyers (1915), Old Pinellas Country Courthouse, Clearwater, (1917), additions to the Old Polk County Courthouse, Polk County (1926), and the restored Floridian Hotel in Tampa (1927) — all but the latter listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the teens and 20’s Bethlehem held the distinction of being the premier summer destination resort in the northeast with over 30 hotels (sadly, most are gone or derelict) and 4 trains arriving daily. Recognizing the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of the summer population, Hollywood studios used the Colonial Theatre as a test market for their films. The Colonial remains a significant architectural link to both the history of motion pictures and the era of the grand hotels.

Building on his father’s purchase of the Uplands Hotel in Bethlehem in 1886, Frank H. Abbott and Son became one of the pre-eminent owners and operators of grand hotels in the White Mountains, with holdings in Florida, North Carolina, New York State, and Boston, as well. Locally, in addition to the Uplands, they owned the Forest Hills in Franconia, and one of the most successful resorts of its era, the Profile House in Franconia Notch.

In 1922, overwhelmed with the operation of the Profile House, Karl sold the Colonial, still legally owned by Abbott and Clark, to local resident, and president of the Interstate Amusement Company, Jack Eames. The transaction was negotiated on an impulse when they happened to meet on the night train to Boston. The Theatre remained with the Eames until it was purchased by The Friends of the Colonial.

The Friends of the Colonial was formed in the winter of 2000 with the mission:

Through relevant arts and cultural programming, we nurture the heritage and prosperity of the communities we serve.

Marquee down 2001

By this time, sadly in need of repair and operating only a few weeks in the summer, The Colonial contributed little to the cultural or economic development of the area. The urgency of the Friends mission was underscored when the heavy snows of the winter of 2000-01 collapsed the marquee of this historic building. Paradoxically, this misfortune served to highlight the importance of this facility as a community treasure and potential resource among local residents.

With renewed energy the Friends negotiated a lease option with the owners, raised the funds for a part time director and house manager, and presented its first season in the summer of 2002. The first season of programming was an overwhelming success exceeding attendance and membership goals, attracting new partners and volunteers, and most importantly, inspiring the community with a vision of new possibilities.

Since that time the Friends of The Colonial has:

The Colonial today

  • Presented the best of independent and world cinema, national touring artists, school and community events to residents, visitors and students each year from May – November
  • Has been listed on the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places
  • Created partnerships and collaborations with other arts organizations, community groups, virtually every library and educational institution in the area and over 20 community non-profits to provide a venue for outreach, education and enrichment
  • Designed a 2 Phase Plan for the Renovation and Expansion of the Theatre
  • Completed the Phase 1 Renovation of the Theatre
  • Initiated the Phase 2 physical and operational expansion of the Theatre which included full insulation of the Theatre, construction of a lobby/concession area, covered outdoor patio reception area and foundation repairs, and engineering and architectural plans for a heating plant and expanded performance space and amenities

Each year, in accordance with its long range plan, the Theatre has sought to fulfill its 3-part mission of arts presentation, historic preservation and economic development by broadening its programming, improving the facility, attracting increasing audiences to Bethlehem’s Main Street. The Colonial Theatre has been recognized as a model for rural small town economic development and arts accessibility.

2017 Performances

Hayes Carll
Aimee Mann
The Steep Canyon Rangers
Gangstagrass
Richard Thompson
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
Banda Magda
Corey Harris
Kat Wright
Sumner McKane: Northeast by Eastern
Occidental Gypsy

2016 Performances

Ani DiFranco
The Barr Brothers
Valerie June
The Klezmatics
Birds of Chicago
Liz Vice
Tom Rush
The James Hunter Six
Portland Cello Project
Vieux Farka Touré

Previous Years

35 th Parallel
Johnny A.
Alloy Orchestra
Avner the Eccentric

Banjo Dan and the Mid-nite Plowboys
Bluegrass Gospel Project
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
Rory Block
Bombino
Boston Latin Band
David Bromberg Quintet
Jonatha Brooke
Greg Brown
Buckwheat Zydeco

Caravan Of Thieves
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Regina Carter & Reverse Thread
Bruce Cockburn
Paula Cole
Shemekia Copeland
Catie Curtis

David Wax Museum
De Temps Antan

Justin Townes Earle
Elegante Collective
Jonathan Edwards

Figures of Speech Puppet Theatre

John Hammond
Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks

In The Blood/Sumner McKane
Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul

Ruthie Foster
Found Footage Festival

Kat Wright & The Indomidable Soul Band
Klezperanto
Leo Kottke

Lake Street Dive
Patty Larkin & Chris Smither
Ljova & the Kontraband
Le Vent du Nord

David Mallett
Anais Mitchell & The Hadestown Orchestra
James Montgomery
Maria Muldaur

National Marionette Theatre
Newark Balkan Chorus
North Country Chamber Players
Northern Lights Band
Novalima

Orchid Ensemble

Paula Poundstone

Red Baraat
Red Molly
Tom Rush & Jonathan Edwards
The Rogues
Duke Robillard

Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars
Martin Sexton
Andy Statman Trio
Solas

Jimmy Tingle
Toubab Krewe

Loudon Wainwright III
Cheryl Wheeler
Dar Williams
George Winston
The Wood Brothers

Pablo Ziegler & His Trio