- promote and develop an appreciation of film and filmmaking that enriches the social, cultural, and educational experience of the community, family life, and individuals; and
- operate and maintain the historic movie house on Main Street, Chatham, the oldest, largest, single-screen movie theatre in Columbia County, added to the National and State Registers of Historic Places in 2017.
The Crandell Theatre was built in 1926 by Walter S. Crandell, a Chatham native and local banker.
Considered an architectural gem, the freestanding building was designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by Louis L. Wetmore, an architect from Glens Falls, New York.
The Crandell has remained largely unchanged since it opened on Christmas Day, 1926, with a Jules Verne photoplay. In 1929, sound-making equipment was installed to show “talkies.” Anthony H. Quirino purchased the theatre in 1960, and for 50 years it was owned and operated by the Quirino family, until Anthony’s son, Tony, died in 2010.
The Crandell’s auditorium was designed as an “atmospheric theatre” typical of the period. The floor is sloped to face the stage and proscenium arch, which now contains a 24-feet-wide by 14-feet-high movie screen. The stage is 26 feet wide by 13 feet deep and includes an orchestra pit with organ lofts on each side. The auditorium level has 422 non-original seats; the balcony 112 original seats. A centrally positioned projection booth in the balcony was rebuilt in 2013 to accommodate digital projection and sound equipment. The street level includes commercial rental spaces, located on either side of the theatre entrance, restrooms and the theatre manager’s office. The second floor, accessible by a side door and stairs, houses the Crandell Theatre office and two rental spaces. Storage areas are located behind the screen and in the basement.
Not including the purchase price, $600,000 has been raised from the community for much-needed repairs since the theatre was bought by the Chatham Film Club in 2010. The renovation list is long, including: a new roof, new HVAC system, new steam boiler, façade and marquee repair, along with installation of digital projection and compliant sound systems allowing the Crandell to keep pace with changes in the technology for showing first run and feature films. Currently, the board of directors of the Crandell is preparing a physical master plan to complete the renovation of the building.
In 1998 the Chatham Film Club (CFC) was organized by area film enthusiasts to bring additional independent and foreign films to the area on a regular schedule. Members approached Tony Quirino, then-owner of the Crandell, and arranged to rent the theatre for monthly Sunday matinees. In 2000 CFC joined with the Columbia County Council on the Arts to produce the first FilmColumbia festival, a weekend of films shown at the Crandell. Following Quirino’s death in January 2010, the Crandell was closed and faced an uncertain future. With an outpouring of community support and the leadership of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, Lael Locke, and Judy Grunberg, CFC raised approximately $600,000 to buy the theatre and make much needed, immediate repairs.
The Crandell reopened just six months later on July 9, 2010, as a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit, community-based theatre. In August 2018 the name of the organization was officially changed to the Crandell Theatre, bringing together all of the interests: an enthusiasm for film and its importance as an art and entertainment form; FilmColumbia, in its 19th year; and the commitment to operate and maintain the theatre as a centerpiece of Main Street Chatham and a singular resource of Columbia County.
Since 2010, the lights of the Crandell marquee have been on 365 days a year, screening over 1,100 mainstream and independent films, annually attracting 35,000 people of all ages. Over the past decade FilmColumbia, the nationally recognized film festival, has shown over 500 movies from around the world. Of these, 24 received Academy Awards in individual categories.
Additionally, throughout the year the Crandell provides:
- Curated film screenings, including 2018 Tales of Europe featuring ten films from France and Italy shown over five days that had not been distributed in the United States;
- Farm Film Fest, in collaboration with the Columbia Land Conservancy and Chatham Agricultural Partnership;
- After School Filmmaking Project in Chatham, Germantown, and Hudson;
- Payment of license fees for libraries in Columbia County to show movies;
- Participation in community festivals with special free screenings and performances.
The Crandell Theatre is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization, governed by a 13- member Board of Directors who have been elected based upon their knowledge and familiarity with film and filmmaking, experience with aspects of not-for-profit management, and leadership within the community. Directors may serve two, three-year terms; officers three, one-year terms.
Current Directors and Officers
- Fred Ulrich, President
- Peter Biskind, Vice President of Programming and Executive Director/Co-Curator of FilmColumbia
- Mary Gail Biebel, Vice President of Theatre Operations
- Lael Locke, Secretary
- Viki Sand, Treasurer
- Bill Barrett
- Judy Grunberg
- Sharon Grubin
- Laurence Kardish, Co-Curator of FilmColumbia
- Lydia Kukoff
- Sara McWilliams
- Calliope Nicholas, Managing Director of FilmColumbia
- Sandi Knakal
- Carole Roseman, Founder, Chatham Film Club and FilmColumbia
- James Schamus
Annie Brody, Executive Director
Brody has been Executive Director since 2013. She serves as the chief administrative manager of the organization and manages day-to-day operations and staff. She implements board policies and coordinates office support for FilmColumbia, community programs, and committees of the board of directors.
Matt Converse, Theatre Manager
Converse implements the weekly film schedule and coordinates films shown during FilmColumbia. He supervises box office and concessions staff and maintains the theatre facility.
Dawn Steward, Office Manager
Steward manages membership and year-end appeal programs, on-screen and print advertising, and assists with aspects of FilmColumbia.