The Colonial Theatre: A History of Hollywood GLAMOUR

By Katelyn Michaud| June 05, 2018 | Things to Do
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Nestled at the edge of the White Mountains, Bethlehem is a picturesque classic New England town overlooking the mountains of northern New Hampshire. Founded in 1774, the “Star of the White Mountains” has a long history. After the Civil War, Bethlehem became a popular mountain resort with over 30 luxury hotels and bed and breakfasts that catered to summer guests seeking the clean mountain air. Today, you’ll still find plenty of historic hotels and inns along with antique and gift shops along Main Street.


Built in 1914, the Colonial Theatre has been a staple of the local community for over 100 years. Developed by Karl Abbott and his partner “Doc” Clark in the summer of 1914, the theatre opened the following summer on July 1, 1915, with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Girl of the Golden West. The Colonial Theatre was designed and built by famed Florida architect, Francis J. Kennard, who also designed the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel in Bellair and Floridan Hotel in Tampa.

Due to the popularity of Bethlehem during the 1920s as a summer mountain resort town, Hollywood studios used the Colonial Theatre as a test market for their new films. In 1922, Abbott sold the theatre to Jack Eames, the president of the Interstate Amusement Company and local Bethlehem resident.

For many years, the theatre was only being used for a few weeks in the summer and needed significant repairs. The Friends of the Colonial was formed in the winter of 2000 to purchase the theatre from Eames. The famous theatre once again reopened to the public in the summer of 2002 with a goal to bring vital art and cultural programming back to the small town.

colonial theater

This summer, the Colonial Theatre will be hosting many live music, films, and community events throughout the summer months for all to enjoy. Featured films are shown on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. You won’t find the latest Hollywood blockbusters at the Colonial (you'll want to go to Jax Jr. Cinemas in Littleton for those!). Instead, you’ll find independent, international, and other films. Throughout the summer, the theatre hosts several film festivals, like the upcoming Oscar Nominated Shorts with short films from the United States, France, Australia, and more.  

For the music lovers, there is plenty of live music events from all musical genres like folk, R&B, and country. Tickets are very affordable, and you may leave discovering your new favorite band. Every July and August, the Colonial Theatre is home to the Colonial’s Summer Children’s Series, a “weekly dose of music, mayhem, magic and more.” Every other week, the Patchwork Players from the Weathervane Theatre in Whitefield, NH host events at the Colonial. Starting on the 4th of July, kids can take a ride on a Magic Carpet with the Aladdin musical. There’s also Alice in Wonderland, a variety show, and even a juggler. For $6, kids will have a grand time at the Colonial Theatre this summer!

Bethlehem is just a short drive from Littleton and a wonderful way to enjoy a day in the White Mountains. Head to Bethlehem early to play a round of golf at one of the historic courses or just take in this stunning mountain views before grabbing an early dinner at the Cold Mountain Café. Located just across the street from the Colonial Theatre, the Cold Mountain Café serves delicious internationally-inspired dishes. Don’t miss the views from the patio!

The White Mountains might be famous for their mountain peaks, but don’t miss the fantastic art and cultural scene in these small local towns that were once home to some of the country’s elite during the summer months.

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