May 21, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer
The popcorn popper and soda machine are ready to go, the projectors have been re-booted, the American flag is out, the posters are up, and the message on the theater marquee has been updated -- all in preparation for the long-anticipated reopening of the Loring Hall Theatre Friday, May 28.
"We're excited to be at the point where we can re-open," David Scott, whose family owns Patriot Cinemas, told the Hingham Anchor. "We feel fortunate to be part of the fabric of the vibrant downtown area and to be getting back to normal life and operations following a crazy 14 months for everyone."
Coincidentally, the Scott family's decision to reopen on that date came at the same time as Gov. Charlie Baker's announcement on Monday that all businesses and industries could reopen at 100 percent capacity. "It was perfect timing," Scott said.
The 275-seat theater's HVAC system is in good working condition, and the auditorium and common areas will be sanitized. The Scotts are waiting to hear what guidance the National Association of Theatre Owners will offer regarding safety protocols next week and will then decide which ones will be best to follow at the Loring Hall Theatre.
"The main point is that we're thrilled to be reopening and to have everyone back -- come on down!" Scott said. "It will be a safe environment."
Scott was at the theater all day Thursday preparing for next week's reopening and also checked in every week during the pandemic to be sure all the systems and computers remained in working order. "It was sad seeing the theater closed and the Square quiet for so long," he said, but all that has changed. "When I was there getting things ready, people walking by who saw the sign that we are reopening were thrilled."
A great deal has changed over the years. The theater now features a digital movie format and a state-of-the-art sound system as well as enhancements for the hearing-impaired.
The Loring Hall Theatre will continue to feature "Oscar-caliber" art films, according to Scott. The first showing will be "Dream Horse" on May 28. "This is a very charming film based on a true story," he said. The balcony, a favorite spot from which to watch the show, will be open.
Visit patriotcinemas.com to sign up for their newsletter, to check movie schedules, and to purchase tickets online. Also be sure to check out the Patriot Cinemas/Loring Hall Theatre Facebook page and Instagram. Tickets will also be sold at the door as available. The theater will be open seven days a week, with three shows a day.
"Now all we need is more concession and box office help," Scott said.
The Shipyard Patriot Cinemas will also reopen May 28, featuring a variety of films.
Looking back, Loring Hall has offered entertainment to Hingham and the rest of the South Shore since 1852.
In 1845, a group of women gathered to talk about the possibility of acquiring a building that would be suitable for lectures, picnics, and social meetings. A number of events were held to raise money to build a lyceum, with a committee of “ladies” formed to take care of the details.
The $659.56 in proceeds from a fair, concert, and social party were deposited in the Hingham Institution for Savings, with additional donations bringing the total to $926.77.
In 1851, the community’s wish for such a building was mentioned to former resident Col. Benjamin Loring of Boston -- who was born in Hingham on Dec. 17, 1775. It was out of a love for his native town and a desire to create a permanent memorial that Loring offered to provide the remainder of the needed funding, totaling $4,062.80.
The committee charged Robert T. Fiske, Caleb B. Marsh, Ebenezer Gay, and Solomon Lincoln with considering various sites to decide which would be the best one on which to build the hall.
The current Main Street lot across from the Old Ship Meetinghouse in Hingham Square was acquired from Thomas Loring. The money raised earlier was used to pay for the lot and to prepare the foundation.
Col. Loring appointed a building committee, and plans were drawn up by a Boston architect. In October 1851, a construction contract was signed with Samuel Virgin of Boston.
Once the building was completed, Mrs. Elijah Loring of Boston and her daughters, Abby and Cornelia, generously donated money to buy settees, lamps, chandeliers, mirrors, carpets, chairs, a sofa, tables, and other furnishings. The total came to $619.93.
Col. Loring contributed $372.77 for a furnace and other work in addition to his earlier donation to build the hall, which was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1852.
Loring, who was among the speakers, talked about his early years in Hingham and the reasons why he decided to pay for the building, and gave an explanation of the trust deed.
An “elegant and bountiful repast” was held after the dedication, followed by a ball attended by hundreds of ladies and gentlemen.
The trustees voted to name the edifice “Loring Hall.” Ralph Waldo Emerson was among the well-known individuals who spoke there.
In 1936, Loring Hall, at that time approximately 85 years old, was transformed into what was then considered to be an up-to-date motion picture house of "charming colonial design." Capitol Theatre Supply Co. of Boston completed the project at a cost of $15,000.
In 1964, the trustees transferred the title of the hall to Derby Academy. Hingham resident Philip Scott purchased the theater from the school soon thereafter, and the Scott family has operated the cinema at that location ever since.
Source: Patriot Cinemas (compiled from "History of Hingham," Volume 1, Part 2).