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The Nugget Theater: Panning for Gold

The Nugget Theater’s deceptively quaint exterior masks an attention-grabbing piece of Hanover historical past.

by Ryan Yim | 10/28/22 2:15am

This text is featured within the 2022 Homecoming particular situation.

The Nugget Theater has a humble look that blends into Hanover’s quaint Most important Road, however the theater has endured its fair proportion of drama. From being the topic of chaotic pupil traditions just like the Freshman Rush and peanut pelting, to freak accidents like a 1944 explosion, the Nugget is a wealthy piece of Hanover’s historical past that hides in plain sight.

In keeping with the Nugget’s web site, a petition to determine a theater in Hanover first circulated in 1916. The petition was permitted, and shortly after, father-son duo FF and FW Davison started development on the brand new venue, opening the unique Nugget Theater with a exhibiting of “The Alien ” later that 12 months. The success of the theater would ultimately result in it being donated to the city of Hanover in 1922, with all internet proceeds going in the direction of the city Treasury. That 12 months, administration duties of the Nugget shifted to the newly-formed Hanover Enchancment Society, additionally based by the Davisons.

Jeff Graham, present common supervisor of the Hanover Enchancment Society, described the present-day Nugget as a “primary avenue mom-and-pop movie show.”

“It is only a very quaint, cozy [theater]. It is like an artwork home,” Graham mentioned. “We present high-end, top-end films, and folks respect the truth that we’re right here, the best way we do issues. And we’re not all about glitz and glamor, nevertheless it’s nearly placing on a great present, a great high quality product and a pleasant, clear surroundings.”

Russ Brady, senior projectionist and technician on the Nugget, mentioned that the Enchancment Society maintains management over the theater’s operations.

“The Hanover Enchancment Society owns and operates the Nugget, they usually deal with the funding and upgrades,” Brady mentioned. “That is fairly nicely maintained. We do not have the most recent gear on the block, nevertheless it’s by much better than what some theaters have.”

The identical, nonetheless, couldn’t be mentioned concerning the previous Nugget.

Peanut-throwing, as soon as a trademark custom at the Nugget, was supposedly manufactured by the theater’s unique supervisor and piano participant “Texas Invoice” Cunningham as a approach of accelerating theater attendance, in accordance with the theater’s web site. It was frequent observe for college kids within the again row to pelt college students within the entrance earlier than the film started. Latecomers, freshmen and college students with new haircuts have been particularly focused. Some college students even opted to throw jelly beans and apples reasonably than peanuts — in accordance with the NuggetCharles M. Dudley, Class of 1929, remembers being almost knocked unconscious by a rogue apple.

In keeping with the Nugget’s web site, one other distinctive — and coincidentally additionally violent — custom related to the previous Nugget was the “Freshman Rush.” These rushes, maybe extra precisely described as raids, would normally happen in the direction of the start of the 12 months when lots of of freshmen would storm the venue with the Pupil Meeting guarding the theater entrance. Ticket cubicles could be smashed, doorways torn down, eyes blackened, noses bloodied and tooth chipped. It was solely in 1937 that the Dartmouth administration lastly “discouraged” the custom.

The Previous Nugget’s roughness, although a part of its preliminary attraction, additionally earned it a controversial popularity. In keeping with the Nugget, Dartmouth was an early critic of the theater’s subpar gear high quality and unsafe surroundings, in addition to its occasional number of vulgar and sexually suggestive movies. On the flip aspect, the Nugget’s position as a supply of funding for city enchancment tasks was plain and a token of the Davisons’ charitability. However, the Previous Nugget’s finish got here swiftly and all of the sudden when a fireplace broke out within the theater on Jan. 28, 1944, leading to an explosion that decimated the constructing.

The theater’s destruction, nonetheless, wouldn’t spell the top of the Nugget itself. Throughout its seven-year hiatus, the New Nugget relocated to Webster Corridor — now often called the Rauner Particular Collections Library — for film showings.

The Nugget’s shut relationship with the School is one that continues to be as we speak, Graham mentioned. He added that of Dartmouth’s establishments, the Nugget maintains a very optimistic relationship with the Hopkins Heart for the Performing Arts.

“We get first crack on the new releases, so we even have an excellent relationship with the Hop and their film individuals,” Graham mentioned. “We compete extra with individuals within the leisure facilities in Lebanon than we do with the Hop.”

The second (and present) Nugget Theater opened in 1951 with the exhibiting of “Cyrano de Bergerac.” It did not take lengthy for the theater to regain its momentum — coming off of what’s largely thought-about to be the “Golden Age” of recent cinema, the Nugget peaked with round 216,000 attendees for the 12 months in 1953.

Nevertheless, the theater additionally noticed its attendance drop to an all-time low in 1960, with solely round 121,000 tickets bought that 12 months. Regardless of this, the theater remained, solidifying itself as a personality within the Higher Valley mythos, if not for its age then for its sheer tenacity.

Brady, who has been with the Nugget since 1985, attributed the theater’s 104-year longevity to the Hanover group.

“There are occasions when there aren’t college students on campus…between phrases and over the winter vacation break, so we now have to depend on individuals on this space,” Brady mentioned. “And, fortunately, we have had good help from the individuals on this space.”

Maybe one of the vital putting variations between the Previous Nugget and as we speak’s is the relative lack of pupil presence, Sarah Jewett ’23 mentioned. A frequent patron of the Nugget, Jewett mentioned that for many college students, going to the films appears pointless within the streaming period.

“It is a lot simpler to only sit in your dorm and watch a film with your mates if you wish to go to the Hop, go to the Nugget, which each price cash to go to,” Jewett mentioned. “And in addition I feel quite a lot of the large field films which can be popping out now aren’t all the time films that individuals wish to see.”

Regardless of an obvious lack of pupil enthusiasm, Jewett mentioned she encourages individuals to discover the Nugget. “The Nugget is an area theater and also you’re supporting a Hanover small enterprise whenever you go,” she mentioned. “I’d undoubtedly advocate that college students go extra usually.”

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