Cooperstown hasn’t had an operating movie theater since the late 1980s, but the village’s former movie house on Main Street hasn’t been forgotten.
A new exhibition, open to the public, called “Smalley’s: Lights, Camera, Cooperstown!” at the New York State Historical Association Research Library, next to the Fenimore Art Museum, will have its grand opening at 3:30 p.m., today.
Three Cooperstown Graduate Program students, Cassandra Cavanaugh, Liz Congdon and Eric Feingold, designed the exhibition, based on a thesis written by a former CGP student, Rebecca Ortenburg, about Smalley’s Theatre. Cavanaugh, Congdon and Feingold were given the task of creating an exhibit as an academic final project about Main Street Cooperstown.
They said they felt that the thesis made a great visual project, well-timed for the 50th anniversary of the Cooperstown Graduate Program this fall. The trio will be graduating from the State University College at Oneonta this weekend.
“The biggest thing we tried to do is take a story, and turn it into something visual,” Congdon said. “The theater was a gathering place for the whole town, which included tourists and locals and it really brought people together in a way that few other places in town could do.”
Congdon said that the Young family, final owners of the theater, were most helpful in creating the exhibit, as they had saved a great deal of memorabilia accumulated over the years, including two of the theater’s original chairs.
Generations of moviegoers enjoyed the Smalley’s Theatre on Main Street from the time it opened on Jan. 2, 1922 with the showing of “The Old Nest,” until the final show in November 1987. Those patrons had a man to thank for the memories, William C. Smalley, who began his career as a projectionist at an opera house in Danbury, Conn., shortly before the turn of the 20th century.