Barry Norman does not sit still. Trying to get a photo of him between facial expressions is nearly impossible—he talks a mile a minute and gestures with equal frequency. When he talks he goes on a lot of tangents and pursues them completely. 

“I’m an insomniac,” he said blithely.  He doesn’t turn off and he doesn’t stop. 
“I have always been an opportunist,” he says. His life story is scattered across the country and various industries, all roads ending at Eveningstar Cinema on Maine Street.

If you want to know why he bought Eveningstar, all you need is to watch his preshow—it features a clip from a movie he made where he walks down Maine Street with his dog, a schnoodle (schnauzer-poodle) named Scooter. “I first get into Brunswick, and I see the Little Dog Café. This is obviously a sign.”

“When I was looking to buy a movie theater, I was actually looking to buy an Art Deco movie theater.” There was one in Lamar, Colorado, “only going for $250,000, which is pretty cheap,” and still turning a profit, “but then I would be living in Lamar, Colorado,” Norman lamented. “All the other Art Deco theaters were dark.”

He mentions that the unique character of Eveningstar was a draw. “It did appeal to me that it was funky, that there was nothing like this. This used to be a garage for Goodwin Chevrolet.” Its eccentricities are evident in his attic workspace, a loft with ceilings a full foot shorter than Norman, located above the box office. To interview him, I had to use a wooden ladder to get up and metal handles to get back down.

Norman was raised in Boston, where he spent time in similarly small theaters. He appreciated the sense of community he found with the people attending. Today in Brunswick, this community has changed.

“I survive because my older audience, which is who I cater to, still wants the community feeling of going to a theater. They like talking to the owner and seeing Scooter and all that.”

“They don’t want to go to a multiplex like Regal because there are so many different screens and so many people running around and they don’t want to get 10 previews because they need to promote all of the films that they have on their screens.”

“They like coming to a theater like this. First of all, they all know each other. When you go to a comedy, a room full of people laughing is a lot more fun than you sitting by yourself. Same thing when the movie’s sad. Emotion is a shared moment.”

He hopes people feel connected in his theater like they did when he was young.
“This is what going to the movies was; [the community] was a big deal.”

Outside of the theaters he cherished, his childhood was defined by pressures from his OB/GYN father and family. “My dad never got it,” he said. “It was so foreign to him.”

“I come from a family of famous physicians. My aunt helped develop the pacemaker.”
Though he went in a different direction than his family, he has applied a familiar focus to his own pursuits. He has asked himself throughout his career: “Things are shifting, how can we get in the forefront?”

This question led Norman from Boston to Connecticut College to New York City, where he “was living on a park bench in Washington Square for three weeks, trying to beg for three dollars a day, which got me a joint, a Colt 45, and two slices of Ray’s pizza.”

He cleaned himself up to score an interview which led him to a job at a magazine distributing office in Denver. After a divorce, he took a job in Florida and then another in Atlanta, where he got into film. Between these moments, he has published magazines, gone to the Olympics to cover wrestling for CNN and run alternative rock radio shows.

Norman has been independent his entire life, and owning his own business grants him autonomy in many ways. Yet, this existence relies upon a customer base and his is dwindling.
“My mature audience, two things are happening to them, one, they’re becoming too old or infirm to go out, or they’re passing away.”

“How do I become relevant? How do I stay?” When I asked him about his next opportunity, he replied: “I’m exhausted. Maybe something is going to come up that I don’t see, but I don’t see it.”

Without knowing Barry Norman for very long, I got the feeling this wasn’t something he said easily.

“There is a certain level of burnout. I don’t have that type of stamina anymore. I was doing the Olympics for 18, 19 hours a day and when I did the Olympics I also started a film festival and was running the film festival from the Olympics,” he said.

“I don’t like to do things half-assed. So, if there’s any other major challenge, it’s a major challenge trying to expand. I’ve been telling people, ‘I’m either going to break through the wall, or the wall is going to kill me.’ We’re getting closer to the wall killing me.”

When I walked into the theater from the box office, I noticed that the only poster that Norman keeps up permanently is a one-sheet from The Last Picture Show. “Great movie,” Norman commented. “I love the movie. I love the poster, and the irony.”

“I don’t want to be The Last Picture Show.”