It’s the Last Picture Show at Chester 5 Theatres

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The Chester 5 Theatres movie complex is closing.

The Chester 5 Theatres at Washington Square shopping center in Chestertown closed after the final showing Sunday, June 4.

The last show was Sunday night, June 4, according to an email to the Spy from a movie-goer who learned of the closing while at the theater. The films on display the final weekend were “Captain Underpants,” “Wonder Woman,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Baywatch” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Manager Charlene Fowler, who has been at the theater 18 years, confirmed the closing in a phone call Monday morning. She said business has “dropped off” over the last five years, and the theater was no longer able to turn a profit.

Asked what factors contributed to the downturn in business, Fowler said, “Middletown kind of hurt us.” She said the Westown Movies in Middletown has “more up-to-date” facilities, including slanted seating that gives a clear view of the screen from all seats. Also, she said, the Middletown theater has alcohol sales, which Chester 5 could not compete with. She also cited the presence of restaurants and shopping facilities in Middletown as factors that drew possible viewers away from Chestertown.

“We had our regulars, but we didn’t draw from a very big crowd,” Fowler said. The comparatively small population of Kent County, along with a small number of the younger families who are typically the audience film makers aim their product toward, undoubtedly had an effect on the theater’s ability to draw. With Washington College between sessions, the timing of the closure is not surprising, either.

Alexander, the movie-goer who told the Spy of the closing, said he and his wife were planning to attend the movies on Monday, because they enjoyed the free popcorn that was the theater’s promotion. But checking the website, they saw movie times listed only through Sunday. They decided to go on Saturday. While picking up their tickets, he joked with Fowler that the theater must be closing. She told him she had a meeting with the owners the next morning. Hearing that, the couple decided to return Sunday to see another film they were interested in. After that film, Fowler told them the theater was closing. She said the mall owner was not interested in bringing in another theater to replace it.

Posters for two of the movies shown on the final weekend.

Chester 5 Theatres were a division of P&G Theaters, which also owns the Essex 5 Theatres in Tappahannock, Va. There was no answer to a call to the number listed for the theater manager, but the recorded message listed showings through Thursday, with features much the same as at the Chester 5 Theaters.

Fowler said she had seen declining sales at the theater since its conversion to digital technology about five years ago. She said she wasn’t sure whether options such as Netflix and cable TV movie channels were a factor in the drop in attendance.

With the closing of the Chester 5 Theatres, the Westown Theater in Middletown is the closest movie venue to Chestertown, with theaters in Dover, Easton and Annapolis slightly farther away.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Melinda Bookwalter says:

    Oops, forgot my last name:

    Bring back the bats . . . . : – (

  2. Barbara in den Bosch says:

    So sorry! Thanks for keeping it open so long!

  3. John Trently says:

    My wife and I are new comers to the Chestertown area, and we absolutely love the small town theater. We are very sorry to see it go.

  4. Michael P. whitenight says:

    First the bowling alley now the theater. Cheap entertainment options are quickly disappearing.

  5. I’m glad this theater is closing. It was a dirty, smelly, gloomy place. The movies they showed were uninteresting. People who parked there threw garbage out of their cars onto the grass.

  6. Lindsey Yates says:

    I’m so sorry to see this lovely little theatre go. My boyfriend and I have 5 children and this was a wonderful way to treat the kids to a fun a day out.

    • Anthony Rose says:

      Anthony Rose . I grew up in Chestertown. My Grandfather for many years operated the Churchill theater Drive in movies in Queen Anne’s County and the Prince Theater on High street. I stepped in the movie 5 and saw my grandfather’s old projector in the corner of the movie 5 theater. I had a few copies of my grandfather Paul Rose Sir. I had framed of articles and some history of the projector and who operated it. I loved going into Movie5 because it felt like home to me!!! I will miss it as well. Thank you all who ran and managed this theater for 18 years!

  7. Dorothy Pratt says:

    I am so shocked and disappointed about the closing of Chester 5 theatre. I have been going there for years and happen to be checking online to see what was playing this week and discovered they closed. What a shame, even though they didn’t have the slanted seats it was cozy and I always felt safe taking my grand-daughter there plus the ticket price and daily specials were great.

  8. James Hicks says:

    Hi my name is James Hicks and I read about the closing of the Chester 5 theater and I was wondering if you could pass this email along to Mrs. Fowler. I have been working on a business plan for an independent movie theater of my own here on Maryland’s eastern shore and I was wondering if I could see if I could speak with her on the possibility of turning the theater into either a Discount theater or an Arthouse Movie theater as a non-profit.

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