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Poor economy closes the Rialto

September 14, 2011
LANCASTER – The last two remaining movie theatres in Coos County have closed. Lancaster's Rialto Theatre and Berlin's Princess Theatre, owned by TBA Theatres, have closed due the poor economy and decreasing sales. A former employee says the bank will hold a foreclosure auction soon.

Lancaster's Rialto announced its closing on Friday—on their web site and on their marquee. The Rialto offered a free, final show of Grease (the 1978 John Trovolta and Olivia Newton-John classic). It was this movie that TBA Theatres first ran five years ago when they took ownership of the Lancaster movie house. "Around 100 or so people," turned out for the final show, said Erik Becker, who was the Rialto's General Manager for the past two years. "It's a rough time for us," he said referring to the theatre's employees and loyal customers, "We're hoping someone will come in and run it."

"After 5 years operating in Northern NH," the owners wrote on the web site "TBA Theatres has been forced to permanently close its operations in Lancaster and Berlin. This was not an easy decision and we struggled

TBA Theatres is owned by Steve and Tonya Taylor Joseph Bowen, and Heidi Bogner, of Medford, MA. The company has several tax liens against the property filed at the Coos County Register of Deeds and, Becker said he believed both theatre will be auctioned off the by Northway Bank. TBA bought the Rialto from Spinelli Cinema in 2007 and then the Princess in 2009. They have and continue to operate another theatre in Rochester.

The 520-seat theatre was build around 1930, according to an article written by Lorna Colquhon. Tom Monahan said his in-laws, Walter and Mildred Kiniry, ran the theatre for Interstate Theatres in the 1942 until Walter's death in 1964 and then Mildred with the help of Edna Whyte ran it for a few years longer. In the late 1960s, Howard Piche purchased it and operated it until his death in the late 1990s. County deed records indicate that in May of 2000 the Rialto sold to MER Entertainment, LLC for $42,000 and in March, 2007, Spinelli sold it to TBA for approximately $325,000.

Varney Smith
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