photo by Kevin Canfield


The marquee during the 1940s.

The Crandell Theatre was built in 1926 by Walter S. Crandell, a Chatham native and town civic leader throughout his life. A member of the New York Stock Exchange, he ran a Wall Street brokerage firm and was also president of the National Union Bank in Kinderhook.

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.

From Chatham Film Club to Crandell Theatre

Chatham Film Club: 1998 – 2018

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 theater for monthly Sunday matinees. In 2000 CFC joined with the Columbia County Council on the Arts to produce the first FilmColumbia festival, initially a weekend of films shown at the theater.

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 theater and make much needed repairs. The immediate renovations included a new roof, new HVAC system, new steam boiler, and façade and marquee repairs. Additionally, the installation in 2013 of digital projection and compliant sound systems allowed the Crandell to keep pace with industry Digital Cinema Projection (DCP) standards.

The Crandell reopened just six months later on July 9, 2010, as a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, community-based theater.

Crandell Theatre Era: 2018 – Present

In August 2018 the name of the organization was officially changed to the Crandell Theatre, bringing together all many ongoing programs and core mission shared by the theater and Chatham Film Club: an enthusiasm for film and its importance as an art and entertainment form; producing the renowned and popular FilmColumbia, now a 10-day annual festival in October; and the commitment to operate and maintain the theater as a centerpiece of Main Street , Chatham, and as a singular resource for Columbia County and beyond.

A complete restoration and state-of-the-art modernization and renovation of the historic single-screen theater is slated for 2024.

Film and Television

Crandell Theatre: The Jewel of Main Street  is a 22-minute documentary that tells the story of the theater’s history, the evolution of film, and the role of historic preservation. It features historical photos of the theatre and the Village of Chatham and several interviews, including one with Anthony H. Quirino, owner of the Crandell Theatre from 1960-1985, who passed away in March 2017 at age 93.

In 2016, part-time Columbia County resident Al Roker gave TODAY Show viewers an inside look at a typical night at the theater, trying his hand at the ticket booth, the concession stand and the projection room. He calls the Crandell “the lifeblood of the community.”

Crandell Programs

From 2010-2020, the Crandell was open 365 days a year, showcasing a mix of mainstream and independent films, annually attracting 35,000 people of all ages. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the theater shifted to its present schedule of films Thursday – Sunday. In 2023, the Crandell created a summer blockbuster series that included Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Barbie and Oppenheimer, for extended runs 7 days a week. Over the past decade FilmColumbia, the nationally recognized annual film festival, has shown more than 600 movies from around the world. Of these, 42 went on to receive 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;
  • Crandell Kid Flicks, a new seasonal matinee program that pairs children’s films with related activities suitable for the youngest moviegoers;
  • Payment of license fees for libraries in Columbia County to show movies;
  • Participation in community festivals with special free screenings and performances.