In 1936, a New York lumber dealer named Carroll T. Cooney decided to build a movie theater in Waldoboro. He hired New York theater architect Benjamin Schlanger, who designed the building with an Art Deco interior and a Greek revival-style façade. Rumor has it that Benjamin designed New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall, so the Waldo soon earned the nickname “Maine’s Little Radio City.”
With seating for 400, the Waldo opened in 1937 and was renowned for its wonderful acoustics. For twenty years, the Cooney family operated the Waldo as the region’s premiere motion picture cinema. In 1957, the Cooneys decided to sell the building and soon after that the theatre’s doors were closed, seemingly for good.
Twenty-four years later, in 1981, the Waldo was purchased by a couple who began extensive renovations on the building. During its many years of disuse, the Waldo had fallen into severe disrepair. Contemporary enhancements were added along with the repairs, softening the Art Deco lines of the interior to the unique design that the building has today. The stage was improved to allow for a range of theatrical and other live performances. The building's facade was rebuilt. The lighting and sound systems were fully updated as well, making the theatre one of the finest for live entertainment in mid-coast Maine.
These repairs and updates took decades to complete. Along the way, in 1990 the theatre reopened under the management of a new non-profit, the Waldo Theatre, Inc., and producing director Chuck Kruger. Under their leadership, the theatre was able to resume year-round operations in 1994. Chuck stepped down in 1996, but under the direction of a constantly-evolving board of directors, the non-profit has since continued the theatre's 23-year run of cinematic and live entertainment.
In 2006, long-time owner Kitty Fassett gifted the theatre to the non-profit. Since 1990, Kitty had covered all the operating expenses of the building itself, which are quite substantial especially during the colder months. Without Kitty's patronage, none of the staff could be paid, and there was a period of uncertainty whether the theatre could remain open relying solely on volunteers and donations from the surrounding community. Fortunately, the community came together to keep the theatre running. That support has revitalized the Waldo once again, and the theatre now offers the mid-coast an expanded range of entertainment, from adult and youth theatre, to comedians and concerts of modern and classical music.
last updated by Maximum Resolution on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:38 AM