Hancock’s first cinema was built by The Odd Fellows (an international service-oriented organization) in 1909 to hold meetings and provide a common area for local events. The Rebekahs (the female auxiliary of The Odd Fellows) also utilized the property for meetings. With the popularity of movies, by the late 20’s the building came to be known as the Hancock Opera House, and was screening feature length movies. Shortly thereafter, The Capitol Theatre came into being overseen by Mr. English, The Capital Theater’s first Proprietor, and owner.
From the 1930’s until the mid-1960’s, the Capitol Theatre was run by Eva and Harvey D. English, Jr. as part of the H.D. English theater chain, Harden Theatres. As television grew, and the local population declined, the movie theatre business became difficult to maintain. After 4 owners since Harvey English, in 2000 the Capitol Theatre discontinued operation as a Movie Theatre. The 35MM arc lamp projector, and giant 38 foot screen were sold off. For a time between 2003-2016, the Capitol Theatre hosted live performances by the Old Capitol Theater Players, Little Victory Players, and original plays by Judith Present.
Although it was built in 1909/1910 as the Odd Fellows Hall, it was originally called the Hancock Opera House when it opened. This was short lived as that type of formal venue, and quickly began screening in the years following. In April 1939 it underwent modern remodeling and was renamed Capitol Theatre with an Art Deco marquis and Box office, and exterior marble was added to the front alcove closing in what was originally an outdoor will call and waiting area. The stone and art deco additions were removed in recent years and the original art deco doors and box office are now located at the Hancock Historical Society for preservation.
The last time it was used as a Theater was 2011, and then the building was briefly used as an Emporium until 2019. It is currently under new ownership and management, and is now being used for Community Events on a case by case basis.
Some Historical Context on the Capitol Theater:
This magnificent Theatre was built in 1909/1910 as an Opera House, with its building interior styled in early art nouveau and further added to during the Art Deco period as a proper movie theater that once seated over 500 people beautifully styled in the period. The exterior facade has gone through many incarnations, but remains much today as it did then. The building was gutted by fire in the late 1940’s but was lovingly kept intact by the owners, and because the heart of the building is steel and stone it remains nearly as strong now as the day it was built.
Sadly, modifications had to be made to the interior, for structural integrity of the main level due to fire and interior business modification from the 1950’s-2000’s. To do so, all original seating in the interiors, which spanned three levels, had to be removed leaving a large empty two-story “modern” space on the main level, which still has its original stage, exposed steel beams, which still hold their original hand painted details underneath the white pain on them today, and despite age and acts of god looks much the same now as it did when it opened. However, it’s important to note there is no permanent seating remaining, and seating is only currently available on the main level via chairs or benches. Sadly, there is no stage lighting remaining of any consequence. All original stage fittings and original lights other than it’s period copy Stage Curtain, have been removed in the 1970s/1980s . But we have the ability to acquire lights with Hancock Partners through a local church nearby who may be able to get us needed lighting for future events.
Every attempt will be made to restore the theater in the coming two-three year period. “Hancock Dramatists” a dramatic arts league formed in Hancock in 1891, who had only performed on our famed ” Opera Ice Rink, were the first to perform in this wondrous space. Therefore, it’s fitting that their modern group will help restore the Theater to its former glory and get the space back to the heart of it’s community. Operating today as the “Hancock Arts Alliance” the organization intends to work towards restoring it to a community-focused Arts Center. This will be designed specifically for the Arts and we intend to ensure it once again has an arts company and performing arts programming available to the public.
Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word “theatre” as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον (théatron, “a place for viewing”), itself from θεάομαι (theáomai, “to see”, “to watch”, “to observe”).
Modern Western theatre comes, in large measure, from ancient Greek drama, from which it borrows technical terminology, classification into genres, and many of its themes, stock characters, and plot elements. Theatre artist Patrice Pavis defines theatricality, theatrical language, stage writing, and the specificity of theatre as synonymous expressions that differentiate theatre from the other performing arts, literature, and the arts in general.
Modern theatre, broadly defined, includes performances of plays and musical theatre. There are connections between theatre and the art forms of ballet, opera (which uses staged, costumed performances with singing and orchestral accompaniment) and various other forms.