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The Dartmouth
March 4, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Wish Fulfilled: A Spotlight on the Nugget

A look at the Nugget’s role in Hanover and reflections on its future.

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Last Thursday, in an attempt to avoid the work that was already weighing me down, I set off down Main Street to visit Hanover’s only movie theater, the Nugget. As I walked through town, I reflected on the sometimes jarring experience of visiting local businesses near Dartmouth. 

On campus, it’s easy to forget that a world exists beyond the Green. But after only a few moments in the Nugget, I already felt as though I’d traveled miles away. The quiet lobby and darkened theater provided me with a much needed respite from the fall term stresses that were creeping up on me. 

Prior to Thursday, I had never even considered seeing a movie there, and I don’t know many other students who have gone to see one. Lily Sweeney ’25, who saw two movies at the Nugget last year, remarked on how few Dartmouth students she saw at the theater. 

“Both times that I went, it never felt like it was Dartmouth-student dominated,” she said. “It felt like at least a fair amount, if not a majority of people, were from the Hanover area.” 

Alexander Huang-Menders ’25 noticed a similar phenomenon during his two trips to the Nugget last year.

“I don’t think students go to the Nugget very often,” Huang-Menders said. 

The makeup of the Nugget’s audience appears to have remained relatively stable over time. Russ Brady, assistant manager of the Nugget, has worked at the theater since 1985. He remarked that over the course of his employment, he has not seen a drastic shift in audience demographics. 

“There were older people coming then and Dartmouth students coming then, as there are now,” Brady said. “The total audience is probably smaller than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but I think this is as much of a national trend as it is at the Nugget.” 

During my visit to the Nugget, I was unable to gather any information on these demographic speculations — at the movie I attended, I was the only person in the theater. I was unsurprised by this, since I attended a Thursday midday showing of “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” on the last day the movie was playing in theaters. The solitary movie-going experience only added to my feelings of peace and sense of grateful separation from the jam-packed to-do list waiting for me back on campus. 

The movie centered around a British scholar who is granted three wishes by a djinn, a type of genie. Despite its obviously-fantastical premise, as the film progressed, I found myself drawing parallels between the plot and my own life on the cusp of my second year at Dartmouth. Recently, I was told that sophomore year should be a time for setting goals for Dartmouth and life after it, so that I can spend junior and senior years accomplishing those goals. 

With that in mind, while the djinn in the movie recounted the wishes that he had previously granted for others, I reflected on my own wishes for this year. Over the course of my first year, I quickly learned that it’s deceptively easy to be swayed by the constantly changing physical, social, and academic landscapes of Dartmouth into abandoning your true goals and desires. Especially with sorority recruitment beginning in the coming weeks, the film reminded me of the importance of sorting through the desires imposed on me by others to determine exactly what I want. 

After the movie, with thoughts of wishes filling my mind, I wondered what “desire” the Nugget fulfilled in Hanover today. Surrounded by an empty theater, it was easy for me to question if the Nugget remains a worthwhile business endeavor, especially with the advent of streaming services. 

However, each person I spoke to insisted on the importance of the Nugget. For example, Brady remarked on the theater’s unique characteristics. 

“We think of it as a draw to Main Street, since a movie theater is not something that every town has,” he said. “Hanover is also a college town, so it’s nice for the students to be able to have a local theater.” 

Sweeney pointed out that the Nugget helps students stay engaged with pop culture. 

“I think every town has to have a movie theater,” Sweeney said. “It’s a good way to be exposed to new media in Hanover even though it’s not close to any major cities.” 

Huang-Menders noted that the Nugget is important for providing options to both students and Hanover residents. 

“Going to the movies is a very traditional experience,” Huang-Menders said. “It’s nice to have that option, since a relevant part of pop culture is seeing the new movies that come out.” 

In terms of the Nugget’s future, Sweeney and Huang-Menders remained cautiously optimistic. 

“I assume they’ll stick around at least for a little while, especially since there are no other movie theaters,” Huang-Menders said. “I think the Nugget would probably stay open even if Dartmouth wasn’t here just because people would want to watch movies.” 

Although Sweeney noted that streaming services could pose a threat to the Nugget, she felt that the Nugget would still fill a separate niche for the Hanover audience.

“A lot of the demographics [at the Nugget] that I noticed were older people; that might help the Nugget, because they may prefer to see movies in the theater,” Sweeney said 

Brady also expressed hope for the Nugget’s future, noting the challenges it has overcome in the past. 

“I don’t have a crystal ball … but I would like to hope the Nugget can stay open,” Brady said. “The Nugget has survived the advent of television and the advent of video DVDs, and we’re hanging in there with streaming.” 

Spending two hours on a Thursday at the Nugget was not the most academically responsible move that I could have made. Though I had to cram in more homework later that night, I was happy to have spent time in the oasis of the Nugget. Watching a movie on the big screen allowed me to disconnect from my worries and focus instead, as the film suggested, on my desires for the term ahead. 

Though the Nugget might not be the most popular activity for Dartmouth students, it remains an essential component of Hanover. When I asked Brady for his closing remarks on the Nugget, he kept them short and sweet. 

“Please come,” Brady said. “We’re still here.”