Now Playing: Solar-Powered Films

The Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass. is going solar! The new rooftop solar panel installation will generate all the electric power required to screen films, pop popcorn, run air conditioning, and illuminate the historic theater. The Somerville Theatre will also benefit, receiving all the excess electricity produced at the Capitol Theatre.

A handful of theaters around the country are tapping into solar power, with the Capitol, which celebrates its 100th birthday next year, being the first in our region.

Why solar? From the rise of streaming services, the COVID pandemic, and economic swerves, it is no small feat to keep an independent movie theater running. However, when you run two of the region’s historic movie houses, you must be resourceful in controlling costs and keeping the doors open.

Richard Fraiman, whose family has owned and operated the Somerville and Capitol Theatres for almost 50 years, looked up to the sky for assistance or, more specifically, the roof.

In December, a team from Lowell-based NRGTree installed 303 solar panels and infrastructure with the capability of generating 158,000 kwh of power annually.  While this renewable energy project was a substantial investment, it should pay for itself within three to four years. Fraiman sees it as an investment in the future.

“Each of these theaters is an integral part of a vibrant community at a time when few neighborhood cinemas exist anymore. Like my father did before me, I’m determined to keep these theaters open for future generations,” said Fraiman. “Going solar makes sense from both an environmental and a business standpoint.”

“We are excited to expand renewable energy in Arlington and on such a historic building,” said TJ Caveney, CEO of NRGTree. “Our company is committed to helping business owners like Richard harness renewable energy. NRGTree supported this project from start to finish – design and engineering; utility applications and permitting; and installation of the best equipment available.”

NRGTree’s Project Manager, Nate Howard, says “It was truly a pleasure working with Richard and the Capitol Theatre team and we are thrilled to have everyone’s efforts come to fruition by providing clean energy to the theaters for years to come. It’s always great to work with business owners that have as much passion for sustainability as we do, and we are proud to have helped deploy a solution with such a large environmental and financial impact.”