Virtual Screening Sends Movies Home

While the Colonial Theatre – like so many other theaters around the globe – is dark, you can light your movie screen at home and show your support at the same time.

The theatre, a downtown anchor and center of entertainment in Keene, shut its doors in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last month along with many other businesses in town, effectively cancelling the remainder of the 2019-2020 season (including live events and film).

Passers-by have seen the marquis contain different messages: “We Stand Together By Standing Apart” and the more recent “Just an Intermission: Be Back Soon,” offering hope for a return to normalcy.

“We thought about what we could possibly do that brings value to the community, paying attention to what resources we have,” said the theater’s executive director, Alec Doyle.

The answer is a new Virtual Screening Room, where viewers can shop for movie rentals on the theater’s website (, from a curated list of new releases and stream them at home. A portion of the rental fees for these movies goes directly to The Colonial, helping to support the theater during this unprecedented time. These rentals are through third-party affiliates.

“It’s in concert with the people who supply [the theater’s] films, Doyle said. These are titles we’re servicing.”

The series of seven films kicked off earlier this month, but all titles will remain available for rental from the theater’s website through May 31.

The final film in the series will be available for rental beginning May 1 – “Crescendo,” which tells the story of a world-famous conductor of an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra whose members are political enemies.

Among the others on the list available for rent are “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band,” about the life of the founder of one of the longest-existing groups in the history of popular music. It’s Robertson’s personal journey of overcoming adversity and finding comradery with his band mates. It combines archival footage, music and interviews with Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Martin Scorsese, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal and more.

“Slay the Dragon” follows everyday people who fight to make their votes matter; and “Rose” is about a small-town driving instructor with supernatural abilities.

“Cat Video Fest 2020” is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of submissions and sourced animations, music videos and classic viral favorites. Your rental of this title also raises money for cats in need through partnerships with local cat charities, animal welfare organizations and shelters to best serve cats in the area.

Finally, “Beyond the Visible” documents the life of turn-of-the-20th-century trailblazing painter Hilma af Klint, an abstract artist before the term existed. Inspired by spiritualism, modern science and the natural world, she was an all-but-forgotten figure in art history before her rediscovery in the mid-1980s and her work was the subject of a 2019 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. The film outlines not only her life and craft but her mischaracterization and erasure by a patriarchal narrative of artistic progress and capitalistic determination of artistic value.

Not only can you rent high-quality films from The Colonial’s website, you can order the snacks to enjoy while you watch.

Last week, the theater launched its Curbside Concessions service, which allows patrons to pick out their favorite movie-watching candy, beverage and popcorn online and have it delivered to them outside the theater. Doyle recommends the “snack pack,” which includes the choice of two sodas, two candies, two cups of popcorn kernels with butter and seasoning, as well as some other movie-themed items, all for $12.

Some other ways to support the theater during this time include making a donation, purchasing a gift certificate or a T-shirt from Bulldog Design with the theater’s logo – $10 from the sale of each shirt goes to The Colonial. Get one by visiting

Staff ensures they will take appropriate steps for resuming The Colonial’s regular schedule with the help and guidance of health officials and they will keep people informed along the way. According to the message to patrons on the website, “the impact of current events reminds us that The Colonial is built around community. Gathering together to celebrate arts and culture is integral to our social well-being and our region’s economic vitality.”

The performing arts sector has been and will continue to be impacted, as will other local businesses such as restaurants, hotels and retail shops.

The nature of the theater’s live events being that up to 1,000 people are gathered in one place means it may be a bit longer before the doors re-open.

“The day will come when we are back,” Doyle said. “In the meantime, we want to stay engaged with the community.”

To find out more about film rentals through the Virtual Screening Room, Curbside Concessions or obtain general information, visit