Hamilton Theater Undergoes $1.5m Renovation

The Hamilton Movie Theater, located at 7 Lebanon Street, is near completion of a renovation with a budget of $1.5 million. The theater has been entertaining the Hamilton and Colgate communities since 1895, and the theater’s re-opening weekend will begin with a free midnight movie for Colgate students on October 10. The grand opening is scheduled for October 11.

Colgate Vice President of Community Relations Joanne Borfitz, Director of Hamilton Initiative Liam McDevitt and Hamilton Theater General Manager Sean Nevison lead the renovation process. Joe Bello and Peter Lawerence were brought on as well to help lead the initiative.

Work to update the theater began on Thanksgiving Day in 2018, first replacing the Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system that was installed in the 1970s. The new HVAC system took up half of the project’s budget. Planning for the rest of the renovation of the theater began later in December, and soon spawned into a larger project requiring a full team of “innovators, architects, engineers, and builders,” according to Hamilton Initiative Director Liam McDevitt. Construction for the full renovation began in May, and has required a complete gutting of the original theater space.

Particularly invested in the renovation is General Manager and Colgate alumnus Sean Nevison ’02. Nevison arrived to Hamilton in 1978, when the university hired his dad as a professor. He worked at the movie theater throughout high school and was a frequent patron during his tenure at Colgate.

“I grew up in this theater and watched Bambi and the original Star Wars here as a little child. We all grew up biking or shoveling our way down to the movies with Hamilton friends,” Nevison said. “As a Colgate student, many professors, including the legendary John Knecht, would send us to watch films for class.”

As General Manager, Nevison oversees movie bookings, events such as Children’s Night, operas, and concession items orders. He also manages additional buildings within the Village of Hamilton, working alongside managers Daniel Ahrens, Haleigh Kolek, Jim Wunderlich and Marylynn Price.

Nevison shared that he has faced obstacles since taking quotes and developing a renovation plan, which began when he took on the position in 2016.

“We just kept plugging away though and after lots of blood, sweat and tears were thrilled when the current Colgate University Administration offered to help support our theater,” Nevison said.

The theater team will organize events for students and the greater Hamilton community throughout the year, including a band from Nashville, a viewing of the film Harriet on Abolitionist Day, a community-wide trick-or-treat party and new silent movies. Sean plans to continue past traditions as well, such as Children’s Night, independent films and the opera series.

Sophomore Sydney Schweber said she feels hopeful the renovations will address existing problems with the space.

“I thought the movie theater was really cramped and honestly a little dirty. I hope they make the theater more spacious and have better seats,” Schweber said, “I think that while it is an inconvenience now for the theatre to be closed, it will eventually be really nice to have a good, functioning space.”

Hamilton Initiative Director Liam McDevitt commented on the community benefits to keeping the theater in top condition.

“The Hamilton Theater has long been a historic landmark in the Village of Hamilton. We’re thrilled to now be able to offer a s tate-of-the-art film and entertainment facility to the Hamilton and Colgate communities. Being one of the few independent Theaters in the region, it was a win-win to facilitate this much desired renovation to provide top notch programming for years to come,” McDevitt said.