Main Street message

Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff

The Colonial Theatre in downtown Keene displays a COVID-19 message on its marquee, in this file photo from late March.

On the first day indoor movie theaters and performance venues were allowed to reopen, The Colonial announced its downtown Keene theater will stay closed to performances while undergoing a renovation and expansion project expected to wrap up next fall.

The historic Main Street theater, which has been closed for the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will remain that way to allow the planned construction project’s timeline to be sped up. In the meantime, The Colonial has already begun work on a smaller, more intimate venue known as Showroom, which is set to open on Commercial Street this fall, the theater said in a news release.

The renovations and second theater were announced last year.

Alec Doyle, The Colonial’s executive director, said keeping the main theater closed and expediting the renovations was the smarter economic choice.

“Under the state’s phased reopening guidelines, our theatre would have only been open to partial-capacity audiences at best for a significant period of the upcoming season,” he said in the release. “Completing our renovations in half the originally planned time is a smarter alternative for our patrons and for the organization’s long-term fiscal stability.”

Expected to begin in September and finish late next fall, construction will involve renovation and expansion of the inner and outer lobbies and will create a larger ticket lobby, a patron lounge, a concessions area, elevators to all floors, improvements to restrooms and new administrative offices. The project will also include a number of backstage improvements, such as new rigging and staging technologies, a new artist lounge and new dressing rooms.

The new, smaller theater at 20 Commercial St. is already under construction; The Colonial acquired the property — the former location of Downtown Fitness Keene and previously, Lady of America — in April. The venue will offer seating for 150 patrons. The retractable seating can quickly be converted into a flat surface for concerts, dances or other functions with up to 200 guests.

“Showroom is going to be a wonderful place to present emerging national artists, established local and regional performers, spoken-word events, educational presentations, film and media and lots of other programming that complements the Colonial’s main auditorium presentations while also appealing to a younger, more diverse audience,” Doyle said in the release.

Abigail Abrash Walton, chairwoman of The Colonial’s board of directors, said the renovation project will allow the theater to attract more renowned performers and enhance patrons’ experience.

“It is our hope,” she said in a prepared statement, “that The Colonial Performing Arts Center can be an integral part of the revival and reemergence of downtown Keene and the larger Monadnock area.”

{span}Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson