One year later, Crandell holding its own

By Tom Keyser, Times Union

On Saturday, the day before screening “Project Nim,” the Crandell Theatre will celebrate the one-year anniversary of its reopening.

It will mark the occasion by showing Buster Keaton’s 1926 classic silent film “The General” and a short silent film from 1927 called “Dog Shy.” Bernie Anderson will provide live piano accompaniment to both films.

The movies start at 7 p.m., and admission is pay-what-you can. The money will go toward the ongoing restoration of the theater, operated for a year now by the Chatham Film Club.

The club bought the Crandell after its longtime owner-operator Anthony Quirino died suddenly in January 2010, prompting fears that the theater, a beacon on Chatham’s Main Street, would close forever. It closed for half a year, reopening last July 9 under the new ownership.

Peter Biskind, the author and film historian who lives in East Chatham, schedules the movies and serves as executive director and programmer of the FilmColumbia film festival, which takes place in October at the Crandell. Biskind is married to Elizabeth Hess, whose book “Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human,” inspired the movie “Project Nim.”

The Crandell is holding its own, Biskind says. It’s breaking even by showing mainstream movies (“Midnight in Paris” ends tonight). Every other Sunday it shows independent and foreign films.

The theater is still raising money for infrastructure improvements. It just spent more than $100,000 on a new roof and has a laundry list of upgrades planned, Biskind says.

The 534-seat movie theater is Columbia County’s oldest and largest. It was built in 1926 as a vaudeville house.