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From Movie Posters to Popcorn,
Remnants of Hampton Cinemas Sold

By Gina Carbone

Herald Sunday, Sunday, February 22, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Souvenir hunters rummage through old movie posters during the Hampton Cinemas Six going-out-of business “Indoor yard sale” on Saturday.
[John Carden photos]

HAMPTON — Before 9 a.m., Lenny Nigro had already taken a seat at Hampton Cinemas Six. In fact, he took eight of them at $5 apiece.

He had no idea how he would separate each seat — since they came in two rows of four — but one set is going in the family’s treehouse, the other in the basement.

The “indoor yard sale” at the now closed cinema on Route I was technically from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, but by quarter to 9 the party was in full swing.

Nigro, his wife, Heidi, and kids Matthew and Nicolas were all over the place, looking for more things to take home to North Hampton. Pretty much everyone in town joined them — all while lamenting the loss.

“It’s sad to see it close,” said Lisa Dupuis of Hampton. She carried her dog, Bear, in her arms as her daughter’s boyfriend, Kirk Carty, 17, carried their early spoils: a $5 surge protector and a huge stack of candy, priced from 25 to 75 cents a box.

Mike Dignon of Hampton got two posters for his niece and nephew — “Valkyrie” and “I Love You Man” — at $10 each. He also bought a large drawing of Hampton Cinema by DeStefano Architects for $5. “I’m going to hang it up.”

He’s been coming to the 29-year-old theater his whole life and isn’t thrilled that a pharmacy and bank will be taking its place. “We need both in this town so bad,” he said, sarcastically.

Patrick and Owen Thomas were walking around with a giant film reel they planned to buy for $30. The brothers, ages 16 and 13, respectively, have been coming to the theater since they were toddlers and are upset by its closure. They both remember the first movies they saw here. For Patrick it was “Toy Story.” For Owen, “Hercules.” They even kept their tickets.

Ellen DeCosta of Hampton wore a sweatshirt with “Hampton Beach” on the front while rummaging around with her husband, Rick, and son, Tim. So far they had two packs of 25-cent popcorn bags — “he wants them for when we make popcorn at home,” Ellen said of Tim — and two sleeves of cups at $1.50 a sleeve.

Ellen said she remembers when there was a house in this space, then a Ford dealership. Now it’s changing again. “I think it’s very sad. It’s part of Hampton’s history.”

And everyone wanted a piece of it Saturday. Every corner of the theater had someone digging for a deal. From Nigro standing behind the concession stand unplugging the Coca Cola sign, to a family in the back room — with employees’ time cards still hanging on the rack — looking through a bag of letters, deciding if they really needed a giant “Z” in the house.

Rusty and Louise Bridle of Hampton already rent out their popcorn maker to the town and firefighters for tree lightings and other events. So now, among many other things, they are getting a warmer and two full cases of popcorn bags. They weren’t sure how many bags that meant, but Louise estimated 1,000 bags in each case. She said they will use them for their Halloween weekend events, Boy Scout events and also for an upcoming Masons popcorn weekend. And they’re not done looking around.

“We didn’t know we would be getting this much!” Louise said.

Meanwhile, Colleen Snyder, also of Hampton, was wandering alone through the projection booth. She had a cash box, a calculator and an empty ceramic bowl with patterns on the side. She’s not sure what that bowl was doing in a movie theater, but who cares? “If it’s laying downstairs it must be for sale.”

What she really wants is that huge $75 safe with the combination written on the top.

“My daughter wants a big safe deposit box for her two special toys, in case there’s a fire,” Snyder said. “If I can move it, I’ll take it!”

Owner John Tinios had predicted on Friday that by noon Saturday everything would be gone. By 9:20 a.m., things were already thinning and the sign with the popcorn and soda prices had disappeared from the concession stand.

Over by the ramp to get into the theaters was a table with fluorescent lamps, box office lights, another warmer and door hinges. A sign on the front door was painted with a frowning face and the words “We (heart) HC6 4EVA!” The ticket counter now reads “This was the box office.”

Co-manager Sharaine Lavigne was bombarded with patrons asking for prices — “that cash register has never been used,” she says, charging $10 — and fellow employees looking for more information. A man on the phone wants to know about buying their whole computer system, she’s told. It’s gone, she says. How long does another man have to get his seats? “The lights are going out Wednesday,” Lavigne replies, “and no one can be here at all.”

At 3 p.m., Lavigne finished another seat conversation — this time with a Dover man who couldn’t decide when or how he should transport them. He has until Monday to figure it out.

“I’m exhausted,” Lavigne said, locking the doors. The sale “went really well,” but “I made the mistake of getting here early.” At 8:30, there was already a line to get in. “It was craziness.”

By closing time the shelves were mostly clear and all the signs behind the concession stands were gone. Two candy machines were still there, but marked “sold.” They would be picked up later by former employees. The building will be bulldozed at some point, but the man who will be doing that will salvage some items first, Lavigne said.

After that, the picture fades to black.

Owen Thomas with a giant film reel he planned to buy for $30.
[John Carden photos]

Friends Renee Lassow, 13, of Hampton and Calleigh Hunter, 14, of Exeter carry away popcorn and movie posters they just purchased.
[John Carden photos]