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Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Theater is the Center for a Variety of Entertainment

Christine Randall - July 26, 2011





When the former Spinelli Cinema in downtown Plymouth closed its doors and was put up for foreclosure auction in the fall of 2009, many area residents wondered if the winning bidder would tear down the historic old theater to make room for a parking lot or yet another convenience store.  Fortunately, the successful bidder turned out to be well-known entrepreneurial restaurateur Alex Ray, founder and head of the ever-growing Common Man Family of Restaurants, who has also demonstrated a passion for renovating and rejuvenating worn-down old buildings and successfully turning them into attractive destinations all around the state.

“It was a spontaneous move,” says Alex of the purchase. “The theater was built in the 1920s and was initially a vaudeville theater before becoming a movie theater. My goal was to turn it into a fun place for people to go to that would be more socially interactive than a typical movie theater, where people sit quietly to watch the movie and then just go home. I wanted people to enjoy an ‘evening out’ experience.”

After renaming the theater to “The Flying Monkey” in reference to the classic Wizard of Oz movie, and a few preliminary renovations, the building, which featured two small theater areas, opened to the public with a showing of the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” on December 21, 2009.  Classic movies were shown for the next three months while renovations were made in the basement area of the building.

“After we had an Oscars’ night celebration in early March of 2010, we closed the building for a few months so that we could do more extensive renovations to the main level and the balcony area,” Alex explains. “We completely re-did the restrooms, rebuilt the stage area which hadn’t been used in about 50 years, removed the dividing wall between the two theaters to create one big performance hall, and renovated the second story balcony area, which hadn’t been used in quite a while. We also took out a projection area on the second floor so that we could raise the main hall’s ceiling up, rebuilt the marquee, and added an ADA-approved elevator.”

The snack area on the first floor and main lobby were also renovated, with beautiful hardwood floors added in addition to a number of interesting displays, including an old enclosed telephone booth (remember those?). The main floor of the performance hall has a large number of seats in the orchestra section, with close proximity to the stage. A full-service dining area is located near the back area of the main hall so that you can enjoy dinner before enjoying the evening’s entertainment.

Polished wooden floors lead up to the renovated balcony on the second floor, which now features a full-service lounge with several couches, chairs, and tables, many of which have a clear view of the stage. You can also enjoy dinner up in this area before the show, and the lounge remains open throughout the evening, serving beer and wine.

The Flying Monkey was re-opened in July of 2010, with a number of live musical and dance performances, theater, and classic silent movies featured on the schedule. Performers in 2011 have included well-known artists and comedians including Jay Geils, John Sebastian, the Marshall Tucker Band, Janis Ian, and popular comedian Bucky Lewis, and coming up in the next few months, you can enjoy the folk music of legends Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie, and Jonathan Edwards.

In addition to the live performances, a silent film series is also being shown on selected Thursday evenings at The Flying Monkey, accompanied by a live musician playing the appropriate mood-setting music on a piano.

“The silent movies go back to the roots of this 1920’s-era theater,” says Flying Monkey manager Brooks Bartlett. “Jeff Rapsis plays the keyboard during the movie, and there is a lot of audience participation.  It’s a lot of fun.”

The theater has a total seating capacity of 475, and this size creates a more intimate atmosphere for performers. “Performers love the place,” says Brooks. “They put on a different show here than they would in a larger venue, such as an athletic stadium or the Verizon Center. They tend to play longer, and the acoustics here are great. There’s not a bad seat in the place, and after the show, the artist is usually available to meet and greet fans.”

The Flying Monkey has also hosted a few special events, such as the well-attended and popular exhibit of some of the late Princess Diana’s glamorous evening gowns and dresses. The Flying Monkey hosted a special showing of the televised royal wedding in April of Price William and his bride Kate on the big screen, which was well-attended in spite of the early hour (4am or 5 am.)

Alex hopes to be able to continue improving and renovating the building in the foreseeable future, adding an up-to-date digital movie projector and other necessary equipment to show alternative films and more current movies, as well as adding a theater and a community function room in the basement area. He is also open to suggestions for other uses of the theater, especially for non-profit organizations, charitable fundraisers, functions, and community theater groups, and encourages people to contact him.

The Flying Monkey is located at 39 South Main Street in Plymouth.  For more information about the Flying Monkey or to reserve seats, call 536-2551, or log on to www.flyingmonkeynh.com.

 

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