BRUNSWICK, Maine — Barry Norman kept many balls in the air during the past eight-plus years in his effort to keep Eveningstar Cinema viable.
The beloved independent theater in the Tontine Mall, which turns 40 this year, continues to pop its own corn, served with real butter, which patrons can enjoy with craft beer while sitting on squishy couches.
To keep the theater current, Norman, now 61, dug into his retirement savings and went into debt to replace the reel-to-reel projector with a digital projector, add seating and replace the carpet.
He’s held fundraisers and hatched plans to expand into a multi-screen theater with, perhaps, an adjacent brewpub.
He’s carefully selected films to delight the particular demographic — part Bowdoin College professor, part artist, part retiree — that stops in for a matinee after lunch at nearby Wild Oats Bakery.
Hundreds — even thousands? — of nights he’s climbed the short ladder and folded his 6 foot, 5 inch frame, complete with a bad back, into the theater’s 5-foot-high projection booth to start the show on time.
But all that changed Saturday night, when Norman’s dog, Scooter — his “soul mate” — experienced a major seizure as the result of diabetes. Norman knew it was time for him to go.
“This dog [was] so freaking tough,” Norman said. “I’d ask the vet, ‘Do you think we’re there yet?’”
Repeatedly, the answer was no, Norman said. Until Saturday.
Scooter, a “17-and-a-half” year-old Schnoodle, long a fixture on Maine Street alongside Norman, never left Norman’s side except to cuddle with Norman’s father as he was dying or jump into the lap of an occasional theater employee.
For years, Norman has set his schedule around the blind, diabetic dog’s need for twice-daily insulin shots, and got him to the vet’s four times a week for intravenous fluids.
“Scooter and I were together 24/7,” Norman said Tuesday. “I held the dish when he ate because he couldn’t stand for that long. There’s no way he should have been alive … he was the toughest dog in the history of little dogdom.”
But this year, Norman became embroiled in an ugly personal dispute that he described as a “nightmare” of harassment and fraud. He believes his own anxiety over the situation contributed to Scooter’s demise. He knows it is the chief reason he now plans to leave Maine, “never to return.”
Throughout the week, as Norman has walked to the bank or the coffee shop, people have stopped him to express condolences, after reading his heartbreaking post about Scooter’s death on Facebook.