Jed Ellis

Jed Ellis paints the highlights of a border on the ceiling at the Colonial Theater in Laconia in May as part of its restoration into a 750-seat civic auditorium.

LACONIA — The city is negotiating with a Massachusetts company to take over management of the Colonial Theater, a century-old venue undergoing a $13.5 million restoration.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow the city to negotiate a contract for the daily operations of the theater with Spectacle Management of Lexington, Mass., a company that manages three theaters in the Bay State.

“We’re so fortunate that it worked out,” said Spectacle Management President Peter Lally, who said he was finally able to see the 750-seat venue late last spring.

The proposed costs of the contract are to be $72,000 for the second half of this fiscal year and, factoring in a 3% increase per year, $144,000 for fiscal year 2022 to $162,000 through fiscal year 2026.

In exchange for the money and city permits for food and alcohol sales, and other miscellaneous operations, Spectacle will hire a full-time operations manager and provide year-round marketing, ticketing, food and beverage services, calendar management, technical services and facility management.

Spectacle Management will also be responsible for utilities, communications services, and daily facility cleaning and supplies. The council also proposed that Spectacle pay $5,000 annually toward repairs, preventative maintenance, systems inspections and capital improvements. The city of Laconia would pay anything above that.

Lally said that because the Colonial Theater is paid for, owned, and operated by the community, his team will be working with other stakeholders in the city to provide space for their community events.

“We will bring our piece, and if there are local nonprofits that would like to get involved we will work with them,” said Lally, whose company manages theaters in Lowell, Lexington and Plymouth, Mass.

Lally said he is especially excited to include a Laconia venue in his offering to various performers to come to the Lakes Region while they are in the New England area. He said he has ties to the area because as a youth he had some vacations on Lake Winnipesaukee at the summer camp of one of his mother’s friends.

Spectacle has worked with acts as varied as the Russian National Ballet, Ricky Lee Jones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jay Leno, according to its website.

Lally said that while the benefits of the potential agreement have an unlimited upside, there are challenges that include the COVID-19 pandemic, the seasonality of the population of the Lakes Region, and initially learning the local market demand for entertainment.

Spectacle is also in negotiations with Bryan and Johanna Halperin, who were two of founding members of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith, for a community theater component at the Colonial Theater.

Currently artists in residence at the Belknap Mill, the Halperins said Tuesday that should Spectacle reach a final agreement with the city, they hope to provide a fixed number of live theater productions to downtown Laconia.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are excited and look forward to working with Spectacle,” said Bryan Halperin.

With the city councilors on board, the only caution expressed during Monday’s discussion was a reminder from Councilors Bruce Cheney and Robert Soucy to make sure all the insurances required by food and alcohol permits were in place before going forward with the final contract.