Photos by Sabrina Sucato
Grab the popcorn, Hudson Valley! Story Screen Beacon is ready to roll tape in Dutchess County, with local snacks and movies galore.
The scent of buttered popcorn lingers in the air on Main Street in Beacon. It’s a nostalgic smell, one that hearkens back to the days of slipping into darkened movie theaters to catch the latest blockbusters during that magical period of adolescent independence. It’s one that brings back memories of midnight premieres, of first dates, and of weekend adventures with friends. It’s a sensory reminder of moments that have been lost to the archives of our past.
After years of construction and roadblocks, Story Screen Beacon is finally open to the public. The Dutchess County theater’s debut marks the completion of a passion project that began in 2015 when Hudson Valley developer Brendan McAlpine purchased the historic property to save it from foreclosure. After looping in Beaconites Mike Burdge, the owner and operator behind pop-up film program Story Screen Beacon, and Jason Schuler and Scott Brenner, the masterminds behind Drink More Good, McAlpine and team worked to restore the cinematic space that has stood the test of time in the Hudson Valley since 1929.
Named in honor of Burdge’s pop-up concept, Story Screen Beacon is an independent, honest-to-goodness move theater in the heart of Dutchess County. After conducting private test screenings at the beginning of February, it opened softly to the public on Friday, February 15. Fittingly, its first screening was none other than Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Inside Story Screen, moviegoers can get cozy in the building’s two theaters, which hold 77 people and 25 people, respectively. Sound in the theaters is unrivaled, and creates an intimate movie-watching experience that invites viewers to lose themselves for the hour and twenty minutes or so during which the films light up the big screen. Chairs are comfortable and plush, allowing viewers to sit back and enjoy sans fidgeting throughout the flick.
“You can laugh and scream and applaud,” Burdge explains, adding that the theater creates an instantaneous bond for viewers as they journey through the highs and lows of the plot lines together.
In the lobby, an old-school concession stand brings back all the nostalgia from your childhood. Candy bar favorites are a staple on the menu, as are local brands like More Good syrups and Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company marshmallows. Peanuts are nowhere in sight, thanks to Story Screen’s commitment to creating a peanut allergy-complacent space. The popcorn, meanwhile, comes from a secret recipe that Burdge gleaned from a theater owner in Mystic, Connecticut. Free from synthetic anything, the signature treat may convince you to take a trip to the theater just to grab a cup or two to go. (You definitely can, by the way. The residents in the soundproofed apartments above have already taken advantage of their proximity to the addictive snack.)
The throwback vibes inside the lobby extend to the decor as well. In the bathrooms, elegant wallpaper and 1920s-inspired fixtures add to the gilded, vintage aura. On the walls, Story Screen’s theatrical artwork, much of which was created by local artists like Hudson Valley Brewery’s can designer Evan Cohen, depicts too-cool posters of iconic films like The Labyrinth and Groundhog Day. The works mesh well with the theater programming, which operates similarly to Burdge’s pop-up Story Screen Beacon and includes classic, mainstay, and generally beloved cultural picks. During the opening weekend, for instance, screenings included Back to the Future and The Wedding Singer in addition to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
For upcoming programming and movie schedules, interested film fans can check out the new theater’s website. During the opening in February, featured films like Cruel Intentions and WALL-E center around strong female leads. The throwback screenings continued through the end of April, after which Story Screen introduced first-run movies to pair with its traditional offerings.
Throughout the year, the theater team hosts community-centric events like a Frozen family day in the middle of summer and pop-up collaborations with local vendors. As for Story Screen’s own pop-up program, that will keep on keeping on as well. Burdge hints of big plans to come, with grander Story Screen film screenings in prominent spaces throughout the Hudson Valley.
“It will be aggressively more fun,” he enthuses.
Of course, new movies aren’t the only new-in happenings for Story Screen. At the beginning of 2020, the theater cut the ribbon on Wonder Bar, the gilded cocktail lounge that sits next door to the theater in the space that used to house Harry’s Hot Sandwiches. As we mentioned in our original article about Story Screen’s development, the retro bar pays homage to the nightclub of the same name that served as a home base for talented singers and musicians during the ‘30s and ‘40s.
445 Main St, Beacon
Tickets: $10 adults, $8 children/seniors
Will you see a flick at Story Screen? Let us know what you think of Beacon’s new theater in the comments or by email to email@example.com.