The Cabot will also have to be converted to digital projection technology, which Hanney said can cost from $70,000 to $100,000.
CinemaSalem raised money for its conversion through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, and Van Ness said Cabot Cinema could likely do the same.
“I’m a believer that a theater like the Cabot could also go through a crowd-funding (process),” he said.
Hanney and Van Ness said the new owners would have to bring in other forms of entertainment, such as concerts, plays and comedy acts, to generate more revenue.
“It’s a beautiful theater for doing alternative film content like independent movies and classic movies,” Hanney said. “You have to really sit down and think about how you would program it.”
If an owner does not come forward, Van Ness, who owns a business in Beverly, is hoping the community would rally to save it.
“Maybe the community’s love for the place might allow it to become a nonprofit theater with this kind of broad-based, community support, where people could be doing lots of different things in there,” he said. “It might need that kind of effort to keep it more or less what it is.”
Complicating matters for the Cabot is the fact that its current owners own another historic theater nearby, the Larcom Theater on Wallis Street. The Larcom hosts shows, meetings and private functions and might start showing movies again, owner David Bull said.
Hanney said any prospective buyer of the Cabot would have to gain assurances that the Larcom would not directly compete.
“You can’t both be competing for the same audience,” he said.
As for the ultimate fear of many that the Cabot could be demolished, Hanney said, “That would be a crying shame, but it would not be the first time. Most of those old, beautiful theaters are gone. Nothing would surprise me.”