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Bristol Area Lions hear past, present and future of the Lincoln Theater 03/09/2016

Posted by DS in club business, meetings, speakers.
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Andrew Fenniman, executive director of the Lincoln Theater (left) is thanked for his presentation by Lion Herb Watson.

At the meeting of the Bristol Area Lions on March 7, the members, five guests, and their speaker enjoyed home-made sausage lasagna, salad and garlic toast served by caterer Steve Hawks at the club’s winter meeting site, the Hawks House Inn.

After dinner, Andrew Fenniman, executive director of the Lincoln Theater was introduced by Lion Herb Watson. In addition to his duties at the theater, Fenniman currently leads his own global consultancy firm, Actionable Insights. It focuses on speeding up the accomplishment of results while developing leadership capability for senior executives.

Fenniman received his Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Massachusetts, his Master of Business Administration from NYU Stern School of Business, and his Ph.D. in human and organizational learning from George Washington University.

His varied interests include music as a classically trained lyric tenor, and theater. He has been a member of the Actors Equity Association for over 25 years. Lion Watson concluded his introduction by saying “he is over qualified to be the executive director of our great theater, but we’re glad he is here.”

The Lincoln Hall was built at a cost of $28,000 in 1875 and held a grand opening on Jan. 21, 1876 with a Portland band and dance for $5 a couple. It was a meeting place for Lincoln County, fire company drills, benefits, temperance meetings, town meetings and conventions.

In 1910, when roller skating became popular, the corners of the floor were rounded in order to facilitate skaters going around the hall. The curved corners are still evident. The fabric panels on the walls are original.

In 1924, a movie screen was installed that was the largest in the state and permanent seats were also installed. There was a piano player for silent films.

A local artist and illustrator, Jake Day, convinced Walt Disney to use an Eastern white-tailed deer instead of a Western mule deer. The movie Bambi was to premiere at Lincoln Theater in 1940. It didn’t happen, for fear of alienating the local hunters.

In the past 10 years, the Lincoln Theater has added a new annex with an elevator, office space and new handicap accessible bathrooms. It was air-conditioned, and new seats and a Main Street marquee were installed, the ceiling was renovated, a digital movie system installed with surround sound, and the roof was completely refurbished and restored,

All of this work resulted in a lot of debt for the theater. When Fenniman agreed to take over as executive director it was with the stipulation that the Board of Directors of the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization only serve for five year terms, and all the present board had to resign.

Today, it has first run movies running with a matinee and evening showing and last year showed all the Academy Award winners except Mad Max. The Theater has plays streaming-in from the Nation Theater in London, performances in high definition by the Bolshoi and Royal Ballet and productions from the Metropolitan Opera.

The Theater also has live plays. The upcoming production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Lolantre will have 13 in the orchestra and 40 in the chorus. There are also a number of free events, such as the showing of Downton Abbey broadcasts, Pumpkinfest and the Red Sox home opener.

This summer the old stairway will be rebuilt with LED lights under each riser and the outside movie poster marquees will be lit. Fenniman hopes to have all debt paid off in five years.

The next meeting will be the Annual Speak Out on March 21st. Lincoln Academy students from the debate team will speak on a subject of their choosing. To make reservations for that meeting at 6 p.m. at the Hawks House Inn in Walpole, please call Herb Watson at 677-6191.

To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions, serving Bristol and South Bristol, call Walt Johansson at 677-3584,

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