The Next Picture Show

The Post Office is looking to unload its downtown building.  The Town of Westport is interested in buying it.  No one knows what would go there, but First Selectman Gordon Joseloff is open to suggestions.

“06880” suggests a movie theater.

Westport nightlife died a while ago, of multiple causes.  But if it were a corpse, the death certificate would read:  “Complications from loss of movie theaters.”

The lines of the old Fine Arts Theater -- including the recessed entryway -- are still visible at Restoration Hardware.

Fine Arts I and II (now Restoration Hardware), III (now Matsu Sushi) and IV (now whatever is behind the Baskin-Robbins building) brought people downtown.

They had dinner before movies, and ice cream after.  They went to nearby bars.  They strolled and window-shopped, and if they saw something they liked, they returned when the stores were open to buy it.

The Post Office is not big enough for an Imax.  We don’t need a multiplex, like the comically named Bow-Tie Cinemas.

But wouldn’t a place that showed indie and art films be great?

Fairfield's Community Theater, where Westporters go for entertainment.

Westporters go to the Garden Cinemas in Norwalk all the time.  We’re big fans of Fairfield’s Community Theater.  There’s no reason those towns can have independent movie theaters, and we can’t.

A movie theater would re-invigorate downtown.  It would provide jobs, and stimulate the economy.  It would give teenagers a place to go, and something to do.

Come on, Mr. First Selectman.  Put your weight and prestige behind turning the Post Office into a movie theater.

It’s not like you don’t know the business.  Your grandfather opened the Fine Arts Theater, back in 1916.

Knowing the way Westport works, if we get started today we’d have opening night at the Post Office Theater just in time for that centennial.

Westport is not like Anarene, Texas after that town lost its movie theater. Right?

17 responses to “The Next Picture Show

  1. how about a bowling alley ?

  2. Please, please, please let there be a movie theatre in Westport! Teens really want one and so do the rest of us. A Westport theatre could showcase scores of excellent movies for people of all ages that otherwise never make it to Fairfield County. My friends and I talk all the time about movies we read about that we don’t have the chance to see. Everybody wants a reason to stay in town rather than foraging through other towns for evening entertainment and a bite to eat.
    When I first moved to Westport we would go to Cafe Christina nearly every Friday night before or after a nearby movie. I remember mothers and daughters together lining up at the movie house where Restoration Hardware is today to see “Little Women.”
    Surely we can come up with more opportunities for community engagement that do not involve shopping!

  3. I’m all for it, but will the rent be affordable? Isn’t that what’s driving most of these downtown small businesses out? I would love to go see movies in Westport. Just think of the matinee opportunities!

  4. Another great idea Dan. Hopefully they will build one and the theaters won’t look like bowling alleys!

  5. something more like an angelika film centre (which i know is not child-teen centric; but, still) would be fantastic.

  6. Not so sure that a movie theater would cut it since, as you note, there are theaters in our adjoining towns. Plus, parking would be a nightmare.

    Here’s an idea–how about a bank!?

  7. I believe the building housing the Fairfield Community Theater was purchased by a community foundation set up to keep the old theater intact. Westport should look into doing something similar.

  8. Bravo, Mr. Woog!! I remember covering the last night of the Fine Arts Theatre for the CT Post in a heavy blizzard years ago. Mr. Joseloff was in a tuxedo and handed out strips of 35MM film, which I still have! … What a masterstroke it would be for his administration to help get a second-run/specialty movie theater going downtown! (Then, let’s close Main Street to automobile traffic and get some outdoor cafe tables instead of Lexus SUVs parked on the sidewalks.)

  9. I just want to say that I will miss the post office! Today I went in there and Lee greeted me by name. I;ve lived in Westport for over eight years and Lee and the wonderful people at Cross Roads Hardware are the only ones who have ever greeted me by name.

    But yes, a movie theater would be nice.

  10. Oh the days of my youth… Going downtown to see a movie at any one of the Fine Arts Cinemas and then going over to Baskin Robins or for a long walk up to Friendly’s for a Fribble or Jim Dandy. How sad that the biggest entertainment draw is watching the tides of the Saugatuck.

  11. How about if we take it a step further?? Los Angeles is opening up upscale dining/movie theaters… imagine a civilized setting in which to enjoy a wonderful plate of local cheeses, wine and (preferably indie) films or live shows! During the day, the space could be a “Taste of Westport” with local merchants and artists/crafters showcasing our town’s talents for all to enjoy… cheese, chocolate, coffee, gallery art… what could be nicer? The theater MUST have a grand piano, however, so the space could double as a wine bar/coffee house at night. I’ll be the first to sign up… and how about a dance floor for weekends? Let’s go for some sophisticated fun, Westport!

    • Suzanne – great idea. Time to bring back Community and the unique talents and soul of Westport in a downtown now full of national cookie-cutter retail stores. Yes, let’s have some real fun for Westporters after the out-of-towners leave as Restoration Hardware, GAP, Talbots, etc., close their doors and turn off their lights.

  12. that sounds totally fantastic. i’m a member of symphony space (your suggestion sounds like a similiar model); a number of westporters/westonites contributed to the establishment of that in nyc and maybe would encourage the same be done here.

  13. Let’s see – Joseloff’s family closes the theater as it is unprofitable to remain in operation, leases to one of those chain retailers, and now wants to open a theater on the taxpayers dime with kudos all around.

  14. My Westport friends and I make regular outings to the Garden Cinemas in Norwalk and to other Fairfield County theaters that offer indie and unique or first-run films in a less commercial atmosphere than the “Bow-Tie”. A cool movie theater with a cafe/restaurant/wine bar (the cafe could be open throughout the day as well; finally an alternative to Starbuck’s) is sorely needed in our downtown. We would certainly make use of a facility like this for movies, parties and screenings, film festivals, arts events, meeting friends and so much more. Is it economically feasible?

    Well, is it economically feasible for us to sit on our hands and let our downtown literally sink deeper into the abyss? I find it sad and discouraging that so many Westporters routinely turn to New Canaan, Fairfield, Norwalk etc. when we want to meet friends for a movie, for lunch or dinner and shopping.

    We need to figure out a way to get some diverse independent retailers back into the fold—quirky cafes, book stores, theaters, antiques shops, art galleries.

    Downtown Westport as a disjointed outdoor mall is not anyone’s idea of a vibrant, community hub. The fact that our downtown was planned with the parking lot on the waterfront just shows how much we need to re-think re-developing and re-energizing our downtown space. Yes, all of this is exorbitantly expensive, but I’ve been to many re-invigorated areas across the country where outside investors were brought in and redevelopment dreams were made a reality. Parking lots were razed and replaced with pedestrian walkways, benches, fountains and flowers—and shops and cafes, restaurants, bars and shops were open to the waterfront. The investment in this type of project would be an incredible draw—but this is a discussion for another post.

    Of course, at this stage, we would settle for the town to figure out how to arrange some sort of tax advantages or incentives that would allow for smaller, independent retailers and service providers, like a new theater, that would make our downtown a more attractive destination.

    One more thing: Whenever I try to spend more than one hour downtown shopping and dining, I get a ticket. Is this any way to encourage people to frequent the businesses downtown?

    I’d love to see a community forum where the public is invited to submit comments/suggestions/ideas about injecting some life back into downtown Westport. I have plenty of thoughts on the subject and I’m sure so many others do as well.

  15. i didn’t know that the joseloff’s as a family expressed an interest in doing that; i thought that above is just this blogger collecting preferences.

  16. Forward, March!Woog’s Army can do anything!