Nugget Theaters • 57 South Main Street • Hanover, New Hampshire

History of the Nugget

Detailed History 1916 to 2014

Nugget Timeline

February 1914: First mention of the possibility of a theatre in Hanover. F.A. Musgrove to build it on his property. Dartmouth students to run it. “Hanover Amusement Company”.

April 6, 1916: F.W. and F.F. Davison petition the Precinct Commissioners for permission to erect a theatre.  Permission granted.  Promise of at least three presentations a week. 6 evening shows and three matinees per week while College is in session. (No shows on Sunday.)

September 13, 1916: The Nugget Theatre opens to the public with a presentation of “The Alien” starring George Beban.  Admission price 10¢. 571 seats. “Texas Bill” Cunningham, ’19 is the manager and piano player.

March 1918: Church services held on Sundays at the Nugget. December 1919: Dartmouth “Jack-o-lantern” humor magazine publishes its first “Movie Number”, featuring photos and autographs of famous movie actresses.

July 7, 1922: Davisons donate Nugget business to the Town, with stipulation that all net proceeds should be used for Town improvements.  Precinct commissioners Storrs, Lewin, and Fairfield to run the business. “Hanover Improvement Society” formed to operate theatre to benefit Town in order to comply with State laws. Admission: 25¢

October 23, 1923: “The pulchritude of the silver sheet’s most famous stars mixes with peanuts and whistles when Dartmouth goes to the movies.” (Improvement Society ad.)


1927 Nugget

1927 Nugget

September 1929: “Talkies” at the Nugget. RCA “Photophone” installed. Prices raised to 35¢.

October 29, 1929: Harvard -Dartmouth game pictures shown at the Nugget.

February 3, 1931: Nugget – Carnival-Nite: Friday at Midnite! A Grim, Thrilling, Hot Melodrama! In the Tradition of the Silent Picture. Piano, Peanuts and Sound effects by the Audience.” (Copy of a Nugget Winter Carnival ad.)

October 29, 1932: “Freshman Attack on Nugget Beaten Back by Palaeopitus” (“Daily D” headline.) Fist fights and black eyes order of the day as a few hundred freshmen stormed the Nugget.

March 2, 1933: Nugget installs latest sound apparatus: RKO Victor equipment the same as installed in Radio City Music Hall, NYC.

March 4, 1935: “Nugget Defends 35¢ Rates; Exterior of Building Defaced” Dozens of letters and editorials in the “D” decry exorbitant prices. Improvement Society claims any lower ticket price means no profit! Manager Barwood says extra dime brings movies to Hanover sooner. Students say, “Who cares?”. Compromise? 25¢ for shows lasting less than 1 hour 30 minutes.

September 24, 1937: “Palaeopitus Defeats ’41 in Annual Nugget Rush”. “The show is over”, says Palaeopitus spokesman. 650 Freshmen turned back. Rush “officially discouraged” by the College administration in the fall of 1937. Palaeopitus no longer guards the Nugget. Nugget management discards tear-gas equipment. Riots cease.


1938 Nugget

1938 Nugget

April 20, 1938: “Remodeled Nugget to Adopt Another Name” (Daily “D” headline). New theatre promised in the fall with balcony and 300 additional seats (total capacity 900.)

October 5, 1938: “Dartmouth Tradition Lost in Passing of the Old Nugget” (Manchester Union.) “One of Dartmouth’s oldest and most publicized oddities is the Nugget Theatre, the only moving picture house of its kind in the world.” “It has given way to the newer more dignified Nugget. Flying peanuts no longer fill the Nugget. There is scarcely a sound from the audience during the course of the pictures. Gone is the old Nugget.”

October 17, 1938: “Nugget Exchanges Peanuts, Fights, and Apple Cores for Lounges and Air Conditioning.” New seats, carpeted aisles, larger screen, new projectors, new sound, balcony, and the same old name. Contest to find new name for Nugget generates no interest..

Storrs: “‘Nugget’ isn’t really such a bad name.”

April 1939: “Nugget” names and CO-founder, Frank F. Davison dies.

October 1940: Defense Tax causes Nugget prices to rise to 40¢.

March 1943: State law changes – Sunday Matinees permitted.

January 28, 1944: Explosion Rips Roof Off Nugget Theatre in $75,000 Fire.” Ed “Smokey” Ross, volunteer fireman, says, “It was just about the hottest fire I’ve ever attended.” Cigarette among the peanut shells may have started conflagration. Exact cause remains a mystery.

February 3, 1944: “Use of Webster Hall for Movies Granted” Ticket prices Adults 44¢, Servicemen 30¢, Children 20¢.

February 15, 1946: Improvement Society purchases 55 – 59 South Main properties as site of New Nugget. New building will have room for apartments, retail business, and the theatre.

September 1950: New Nugget under construction on South Main.

September 23, 1951: “Open House” at the New Nugget 3- 6 PM. First presentation September 24th, “Cyrano de Bergerac”, plus Chaplin film with Bill Cunningham at the piano. Admission price is 50¢ for adults. Telegrams from Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Bill Holden, Bing Crosby, and Betty Hutton (Paramount stars).

Improvement Society spokesman: “There’s no TV up here yet, and we figure that it won’t interfere much, if it ever gets here. The movies are here to stay.

December 31, 1951: WBZ-TV the only channel available in the Upper Valley.

January 30, 1953: Rapid advances made by television prompt Society directors to give precedence to payment of debt rather than donations to the community “for the present”.

December, 1953: A new phenomenon: “The Flick Major”. Attendance for the year is 216,000, one of the best in Nugget history.

January 3, 1954: Arthur Barwood, Manager of the Nugget for 30 years, dies at age 60. Barwood survived the heydays of the Nugget, including Nugget rushes and the peanut wars, and lived to open the elegant new Nugget.

February 11, 1954: J. Blair Watson, Director of Dartmouth Film Society, appointed liaison officer to represent the College community in assisting the management of the Nugget in the selection of films.

April 1, 1954: Kenneth Dimick is named Nugget Manager. Formerly employed at Serry’s clothiers Dimick was active for years in Hanover civic affairs and served as past President of the Chamber of Commerce and the Hanover Lion’s Club.

August 12, 1954: “Cinemascope” installed in Nugget to help thwart declining attendance. Board of Directors worries about the downward trend. (However, for four consecutive years (1952 to 1955) the new Nugget averages over 200,000 patrons/year for the first and only time in its history!)

October 26, 1955: Board discusses policies regarding management of the Nugget, purchasing films, and the prospects of maintaining attendance in the face of the increasing popularity of TV in the area.

July 1958: Joe MacDonald, Dartmouth College Dean of Students, warns Improvement Society Board that the increasing academic pressures of the three-term schedule may impact movie attendance.

June 1960: Nugget attendance drops to its all-time low of 121,073 for the year. 40% BELOW 1953 total! Six television stations now serve the Upper Valley. Air conditioning system installed.

November 8, 1962: Dartmouth dedicates the Hopkins Center for the Creative and Performing arts – a $6,000,000 palace for the presentation of plays, concerts, films, and art exhibits. The Dartmouth Film Society is rejuvenated.

July 1965: Six screens in the Upper Valley showing 11 film titles on a typical weekend. Six TV channels operate around the clock with 10 movies scheduled in “Prime Time”.

November 1965: Manager Dimick reports that on the average only 35% of patrons are Dartmouth students. (80% on weekends!) Diverse audience leads to better selection of movies and improved behavior. It’s safe to bring your date to the Nugget. Since 1960 Nugget attendance has reached a plateau of about 130,000 patrons per year.

November 21, 1969: Valley Cinemas 1 & 2 have a Grand Opening Show “Yellow Submarine”, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, and “Battle of Britain”. Nugget screens “Midnight Cowboy”. Lyric Theatre “Gone With the Wind”.

December 31, 1969: Despite competition from three drive-ins in the summer, the Hopkins Center year-round, and four local cinemas, and a plethora of popular television shows, the Nugget reached a decade high attendance of 153,000 patrons in 1969.

September 1970: Nugget Arcade opened next door to the Nugget. Built with accumulated revenues from Nugget and borrowed funds. Four retail stores and two floors of office space. Lobby serves as exit from theatre.

October 30. 1972: Nugget attendance down 10,000 during year. Blame “inferior films”, “Dartmouth Film Society”.

July 1, 1973: Edward M. “Pete” Cavaney retires from H.I.S. Presidency. Served with distinction since 1949. Lewis J. Bressett elected to succeed him.

January 1974: “Poor Films, Heavy Course Loads Cut into Attendance at Nugget” (Daily “D” headline). Cavaney, Bressett, and Dimick cite poor product, heavy student workload, Hopkins Center competition, and television as some of the factors impacting Nugget attendance.

February 1974: Fall River Theatre Corporation, run by Ed Lider, Dartmouth Alumnus, takes over management of the Nugget. Slipping attendance cited. “An effort to build the business back up.” Ken Dimick resigns as Nugget manager. Craig Sears appointed to succeed him. Long Time Nugget personality, Fred Hartford, retires.

June 28, 1974: Valley News: Longer engagements for “first run” films, 35¢ candy bars, and no more “Nugget News” evidence of “new management” at Nugget. A third as many film titles run now as in comparable period a year ago. Adults $2.00; Children 75¢. Complimentary passes eliminated.

July 1975: 10 screens in the Upper Valley showing 13 film titles for a total of 38 shows per weekend. Two additional TV stations bring total to 8. Popular television shows compete with movies in Prime Time: “Six Million Dollar Man”, “All in the Family”, “Mary Tyler Moore Show”, ” Bob Newhart”, and ” Carol Burnett”. On Sunday “Wonderful World of Disney”, “Mod Squad”, and “Masterpiece Theater”.

October 1975: Nugget Twin Cinemas (1 and 2). Nugget divided into two 325 seat theatres. Projection equipment modernized, lobby reduced in size. Retail space developed in front section of lobby. (Greydon Freeman, Inc.)

September 28, 1976: Craig Sears resigns as Nugget Manager, Dan Dramgoole, formerly of Loew’s Theatre, Inc. of Boston, new manager. Sears to run Storrs Pond program.

November 1977: Nugget tries on-screen commercials to help cover expenses.

December 19, 1979: Society President Lewis J.Bressett appointed General Manager of the Improvement Society.

April 1984: Contract with Fall River Theatre Corporation ends after stormy relationship. “Film Arts Enterprises” (Bill and Stella Pence) hired as consultants to theatre manager and booking agents.

July 10, 1985: Begin planning for a third screen. Updating ventilating and A/C, seats broken down and not oriented toward the center of the screen, sound barrier not adequate between theatres, auditorium suffers from years without maintenance. On top of all that “pitiful” external signage. architect Randall T. Mudge submits plan for third 100 seat theatre and remodel.

March 1986: Sachs’ Six -plex on “Miracle Mile” in Lebanon opens.

March 17, 1986: Misgivings regarding third theatre due to new policies of distributors limiting ONE print in Lebanon/Hanover area. Theatre CLOSED from May to early July for renovations : Third screen project abandoned. Nugget lobby renovated. New seats. New concession area and ticket counter, handicapped accessible bathroom.

July 1, 1988: Terry McBall succeeds Dan Dramgoule as Manager of the Nugget.

July 1, 1991: Lewis J. Bressett retires as President and General Manager of the Improvement Society and becomes “Emeritus President”. John G. Skewes elected President; Thomas E. Byrne, III appointed General Manager.

September 1991: Nugget Celebrates 75th Anniversary. Special films series – best films of each decade. Reception, film premiere (“Billy Bathgate”), exhibit of Nugget history and special editions of “Nugget News Herald” featured.

September 1993: New Nugget Marquee: full information for as many as six films.

June 1, 1994: “Labor unrest at the Nugget”. Terry McBall resigns. Wholesale changes in Nugget part-time staff.

June 7, 1994: Rhonda Beardsworh hired as full-time Nugget Manager.

September 25, 1995: Manager Beardsworth leaves. Russell Brady appointed interim Nugget Manager.

February 28, 1996: John Fabian hired as full-time Nugget Manager. Interim Manager, Russ Brady, becomes Senior Technician/Projectionist.

March 31, 1997: Manager John Fabian resigns and leaves the area. Donald Babcock, part-time Assistant Manager, is promoted to Nugget Manager, full-time.

May 1997: Two new screens added “Nugget Theatres” now a “four-plex”. New automated projection equipment and digital; surround sound installed. Capacity 671 – up about 21 seats over Twin Cinemas’ capacity.

May 1999: Digital surround sound and new automated projection equipment installed to replace remaining old equipment. Prices: Adults $7.50; Seniors $5.00; Children $4.00.

July 20, 1999: John G. Skewes, 4th President of the Improvement Society, retires.  Tod H. Schweizer is elected the Society’s 5th President.

October 19, 2001: Nugget’s 85th Anniversary in Hanover and 50th Anniversary “On Main Street” celebrated. “An American in Paris”, Best Film of 1951, featured at anniversary celebration.

July 11, 2002: Improvement Society’s 80th Annual Meeting held. Celebrates a very generous donation. Many cumulative gifts to the Town and the Upper Valley.

2004: Remodeled basement restrooms.

Spring of 2006: Remodeled lobby.

Fall of 2006: Put new seats in all four theaters.

May 15, 2007: M. Kaufman promoted from Assistant Manager to Manager replacing Donald Babcock.

June 18, 2010: Digital 3D installed for TOY STORY 3 and began accepting credit cards.

May 3, 2013: Went fully digital; no more 35mm films.

May 2014: Added matinee round and dropped 9pm on Monday-Thursday, began selling swipe gift cards and online tickets through our website.

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