One of the last drive-in movie theaters in the country is located right across the street from the Weirs Beach sign. Opened in 1949, the Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater (603) 366-4723, has four screens, each showing a double feature, with the first movie starting at dusk.
Nearby to Weirs Beach, in Meredith, is the Winnipesaukee Playhouse (603) 279-0333. The playhouse is a year-round, family-run theater dedicated to bringing quality arts and entertainment to the Lakes Region. They aim to provide a fun and challenging theatrical environment for all Lakes Region locals and visitors in both performance-based and educational arenas. Whether your interest is to be onstage, behind-the-scenes, or in the audience, The Winnipesaukee Playhouse has something for you!
The year 2021 saw the opening of not one, not two, but THREE new theaters in Laconia! First, there was the restored Colonial Theater (see below). Second, there was the restored Lakeport Opera House. Finally, there was the brand new CAKE theater.
The neon sign at the Weirs Drive-In.
HISTORY OF THE WEIRS BEACH DRIVE-IN
The Weirs Beach Drive-in, in 1975. The nearby orange-roofed Howard Johnson’s restaurant burned on October 7, 1984 and is now the site of the Faro Italian Grill.
Below, a circa 1960 aerial view of Weirs Beach (click here to enlarge) showing the Drive-in and the Weirs Channel.
HISTORY OF THE COLONIAL THEATRE
The Colonial Theater on Main Street in downtown Laconia opened in 1914 with 1200 seats. Live performances were only a memory by the 1960s, when it had become a single-screen movie palace. The webmaster attended many movies here, and fondly recalls the beautiful illumination by glowing purple nightlights. In 1983, the grand interior was subdivided into a 5-screen multiplex cinema. The
movie theater closed in 2002. Previous efforts to restore the theater fell short. However, in June 2015, it was announced that the theater would finally be restored to its former glory. The restoration was completed in 2021. Nationally, many Main Streets have been revitalized by the renovation of their old theaters, as a NY Times article points out. The League of Historic American Theaters assists many of these restoration efforts.
There remains a second, smaller theater in downtown Laconia, located right across the street from the Colonial, that has not been restored. It was called the Gardens Theater. Click for photos and info about the Gardens Theater.
Interior of the Colonial Theater.
HISTORY OF THE LAKES REGION PLAYHOUSE
The Lakes Region Playhouse was the premier “summer stock” theater in the area in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. The theater was located at the corner of Routes 11 and 11B in Gilford. Click here for a history of the Lakes Region Playhouse and various memorabilia.