Granite State of Mind, #54: Hampton Cinemas, Hampton
I've spilled a lot of ink on another movie house in the seacoast, and I'm sure I will again before this list is finished. But I can't talk about going to the movies back home without a tip of the cap to the dead-and-buried Hampton Cinemas. When I was a kid and it was time to take in a picture show, we'd more often than not head into Newington. But once I hit junior high and high school in Exeter, the Hampton Cinemas became more of a draw. A quick shot down Route 27 brought you to this little six-screen cottage of a theater, across the street from the Galley Hatch. From 1980 to 2009, it was the cheaper, closer, less overwhelming alternative to its bigger and glitzier cousin by the mall. Hampton Cinemas (and the Jerry Lewis on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth) were the locals' theaters. A little dingy, but perfectly good.
I can remember a lot of dates in that theater, for good or ill. A lot of opening nights of big-budget blockbusters with my brother Al Pace (whether or not Mark Freeman was on duty). It was comfortable, affordable, and accessible; a well-worn sneaker of a place. It's gone now, replaced by a CVS I think. The Jerry Lewis is gone too, and to see a film in the seacoast you're forced to visit the Googleplexes in Newington or Epping, unless you venture out to Barrington. Movies are big business, and there's no place in big business for for modest players. Go big or go home.