November 30, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: The movie biz returns
By Jeff Rapsis

The Gate City has been without a commercial movie screen since the multiplex at the Nashua Mall was replaced by a Bugabook Creek Steakhouse.

I’ve had dinner there, and the talking mounted wall animals provide more entertainment than many movies screened in the same space.

Meanwhile, screens have come and gone in nearby towns. In Merrimack, a big new Cinemagic complex has opened, but the old Premiere 8 is no longer in operation.

Now comes news that in January Nashua will be back in the movie biz with the arrival of Chunky’s Cinema Pub, an eight-screen facility opening on Coliseum Boulevard near the Hannaford supermarket.

The gimmick with Chunky’s is that it’s not just a movie theater. As the name indicates, it’s also a pub-style restaurant where you can order and enjoy food while your favorite film unspools before you. They offer birthday parties and other events.

Personally, if I’m watching a movie in a theater, I want to focus on the film, and would rather not be surrounded by people chowing down or ordering drinks.

But this aversion may be due to my first and only experience in a similar operation some years ago that had unintentionally disastrous consequences.

At the time, I had just been appointed manager of a group of old-time weekly newspapers based in Goffstown. My job was to modernize the operation, and that meant getting the staff—mostly folks from town—up to speed with the newspaper business.

About this time, Ron Howard’s film The Paper was released. Billed as a realistic look at the inner workings of a New York City tabloid, it provided a perfect chance to show the staff what we were aiming for.

We had missed the film in general release, but it wound up playing at a cinema pub in Manchester. So we all trooped down (my treat) for an evening of food and a dose of big-city journalism, Hollywood-style.

But I had miscalculated. The most notable feature of the film was its liberal use of the “F word” from start to finish, which completely flummoxed the sweet and well-meaning folks I had inherited.

You could tell they were shocked because once the language started, the eating stopped. I didn’t have to worry about chewing because people just sat there with their mouths open.

“Is that how you want us to talk?” asked the paper’s receptionist, a woman in her 70s.

But that was years ago, so maybe it’s time to give the cinema-pub concept another try.

In any case, let’s hope that Chunky’s is able to make a go of it in Nashua. As entertaining as they are, those animals at the Bugabook Creek Steakhouse do get a little old after a while.