The Importance Of New Hampshire Movie Theaters

In the silent era of film it was just as likely to find films being produced in New England as in New York or Hollywood. Early New England films, such as Benedict Arnold (1909), Battle of Bunker Hill (1911) and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1914). The lack of complex technology at the time—everything from air conditioners to accessible cameras to high-tech editing equipment—made New England just as attractive for film companies as any other location and, in addition, benefitted from the climate and scenic landscape. Some of the largest film companies of the time, such as that of Thomas Edison, made New England shores and small towns destinations as summer shooting locations.David Mamet chose to do the same when shooting his Hollywood comes to New England drama, State and Main (2000).

Such unique aspects offered by the land and nature of New England have also inspired others, particularly in the genres of suspense and horror. Edison Studios produced Uncle Josh in a Spooky Hotel, the first film made in New England that could be considered to belong to the horror genre, in 1900. Around the same time, a highly influential writer of the genre was born in Rhode Island, Howard Phillips Lovecraft—better known today as H.P. Lovecraft. Peppered with ancient, isolated fishing towns and puritanical remnants, New England made a perfect source from which he could draw his eldritch tales. His novel, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" was the first of numerous Lovecraft film adaptations, the title renamed by director Roger Corman as The Haunted Palace (1963). From 1967's The Shuttered Room to 2011's Whisperer in the Darkness, some thirty films have been adapted from Lovecraft's work, several set in sleepy New England towns. The so-called Cthulhu Mythos built around Lovecraft's characters and settings have been used by many writers and directors in their own works, including John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro and Sam Raimi. Carpenter used the fictional, Lovecraftian town of Hobb's End, New Hampshire as the setting for his homage to the author, 1995's In the Mouth of Madness.

Drawing comparisons to H.P Lovecraft, author Stephen King has created a shared universe for his own characters. A native of Maine, King sets almost all of his tales there, building on the mystique and history of the area to bring the stories to life, much as Lovecraft did. Some have said that Stephen King has "probably done more to shape popular culture images of New England than anyone since Eugene O'Neill." Both authors often combined the supernatural with their native soil, much as Nathaniel Hawthorne had done in the previous century. Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," for instance, tells of a meeting with the Devil in the woods outside colonial Plymouth, which, itself, draws on the tragic time in New England known as the Salem Witch Trials. The time of the witch trials in Salem would draw filmmakers to the topic again and again, starting with 1937's Maid of Salem.

Some of the area's best known films concern not evils from the past but those in modern New England. These include New Hampshire filmmaker Louis de Rochemont's socially conscious films, Lost Boundaries (1949) and Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951), about racism in and labor issues in New Hampshire, respectively. Portsmouth has some of the great New Hampshire movie cinemas and hosts the annual New Hampshire Film Festival every year. In efforts to preserve New England's history in film and continue it, such expositions are planned annually across the New England countryside.

As time goes on so does the culture of the arts in New England, with two benefit of new technology. Phil Hall, an actor, journalist and historian living in New England, has attributed the digital video revolution with spurring a new wave of filmmakers in the region. Hall does have concerns about the available venues for displaying so many films, adding, "When faced with exhibiting Angels and Demons or a no-budget movie made in Vermont, their choice is clear" (except perhaps in movie theaters near Portsmouth, New Hampshire). A famously growing movie company around southern New Hampshire is O’neil Family Cinemas. With modern benefits provided by the internet, filmmakers from New England are seeking to rival Hollywood once again and they just might.