The Arcadia Theater, Downtown Portsmouth Cinemas, and Walter Brooks

This is a pen and ink drawing of the Arcadia Theater, which I did in about 1981 or so, and is owned by Tom Field. I borrowed back the art to use in the 1988 Portsmouth History Calendar, and haven’t returned it yet(!). We have been in touch about it, but not for a while. So if you talk to Tom, please remind him I still have his drawing.
The Arcadia Theater was located next to Daddy’s Junky Music on Congress Street in the Franklin Block. I was never in it, but I knew Walter Brooks, who managed it for a while, and also at least a couple other downtown Portsmouth theaters on and off. When the downtown Portsmouth theaters closed in the late 80s, he went up to the Stand in Dover. Walter used to buy ads in re:Ports. magazine, and he’d tell Phillip and I stories about the old theaters and shows in town and what it was like to work in them. He was a big, heavy, quiet guy, who was always very laid back and loved to talk. He told me about a show in which there were horses onstage, I think that was at the Music Hall. He died a few years ago. Read more about Walter Brooks in his obit here.
In the early 1980s, there was still the Cinema (which later changed to Eagle Photo and was next to the North Church on Market Square) and the Civic, which is now the Music Hall. Movies at the Civic cost $.50 in the early ’80s, so it was ideal entertainment for us recent college grads who were short on funds. It was usually a bit chilly in there. You could always sneak some beer in under your coat.

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