Milbridge movie house likely to stay closed after longtime owner dies

Posted Jan. 08, 2015, at 1:10 p.m.

MILBRIDGE, Maine — A local movie theater, whose owner died last month after operating the business for 36 summers, is not expected to reopen, according to the owner’s brother.

Rich Parsons, the younger brother and sole surviving relative of Dave Parsons, said this week the economics of continuing to operate the movie house are too formidable to keep it going.

Dave Parsons, who purchased the theater in 1978 and operated it every summer since, died Dec. 11 in his sleep of an apparent heart attack, Rich Parsons said. He was 65 years old.

Rich Parsons said his brother was getting pressure from movie distributors to convert his projection equipment to a digital format, but the anticipated cost would have been roughly $60,000 — more than his brother could afford.

“The movie industry has always been slick,” Rich Parsons said. “He wasn’t going to be able to put in the digital equipment. He knew he was beaten. I think that took some of the wind out of his sails.”

Even if his brother had not died, he said, it would have been unlikely for the theater to reopen this coming summer.

Dave Parsons was born in Dover, New Hampshire, and grew up with his younger brother and parents in Oswego, Illinois. He attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, just north of Saint Louis, Missouri, and graduated in 1971 with a degree in history, according to his brother. He dabbled in entertainment, learning how to play the French horn and cornet and mastering several magic tricks, but following his college graduation worked as a cafeteria administrator in the St. Louis public school system for four years.

He then moved East and worked for Friendly’s restaurants in Massachusetts for a year before his love of movies led him to purchase the Milbridge Theatre 36 years ago. The theater was called the Colonial when it first opened in 1937, Rich Parsons added.

Dave Parsons favorite movie was the “Wizard of Oz,” his brother said, which led him to paint the theater’s entrance ramp yellow and the theater doors emerald green, in homage to the film. He never married or had children and, in addition to operating the theater during summers, created and managed Milbridge’s water district and found intermittent work as an electrician.

Rich Parsons said he was close with his brother. He talked to him on the phone every day for the past 25 years and visited him in Milbridge this past Thanksgiving. Despite having been in a car accident years ago, his brother appeared to have been fairly healthy, he said.

Rich Parsons, who lives in Hudson, New Hampshire, said he now owns the theater building and his brother’s house and that he has not made a decision what to do with the properties. Even if he sells the theater, he added, he doesn’t think it has a future.

To fully renovate the building, including the installation of digital equipment, probably would cost $150,000, he estimated. In an era where people stay in touch online and have immediate access to television and movies on the Internet, he said, small-town single-screen movie theaters just aren’t economically viable.

“People don’t want to go out anymore,” Rich Parsons said. “It’s not like it used to be.

“It will never reopen,” he added. “You wouldn’t find anybody to be as dedicated as [my brother].”

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