One of the most visible downtown properties will soon have a new look.
Restoration Hardware is closing in April.
Sources say the reason is not poor sales. Rather, the 11,000-square foot spot opposite Anthropologie, a few yards from Main Street, is not in keeping with the current large-format stores (“galleries,” in Restoration-speak) they’ve opened the last few years.
The home furnishings company — I have no idea where “Hardware” comes from — has been on the Post Road for about 20 years. It replaced the Fine Arts I and II movie theaters, which had been there since the early 1900s.
The closure leaves only one Restoration location in Connecticut: Greenwich.
The lines of the old Fine Arts Theater — including the recessed entryway — are still visible at Restoration Hardware.
(Interested in leasing the property? Email email@example.com, or call 203-856-9674.)
But Fine Arts I and II move theaters, Fine Arts Art Supplies, Westport Smoke Shop, Schaefer’s Sporting Goods, Quick Copy, Village Coiffeurs, Ship’s Lantern bar — even the traffic island and crosswalk — are all gone.
That’s not unusual. A lot happens in 42 years.
So if Marty McFly suddenly traveled from 2019 to 1977 — when Fred Cantor took this photo — would he feel very disoriented? Or quite at home?
The Fine Arts Theatre back in the day -- the day looong before Restoration Hardware. (Photo provided by Miggs Burroughs)
Westport hasn’t been the same since 1999, when the theaters closed. We need movies back in town.
Making that happen, though, might be something even James Cameron can’t concoct.
Jonathan Steinberg thought an important 1st step would be taken Tuesday night. The RTM member, Town Plan implentation activist, cinephile and Staples ’74 grad who remembers the Fine Arts Theatres well convened a meeting of over 2 dozen film-loving Westporters.
Steinberg thought they’d pretty much agree to the idea of a film society, then hash out little details like where, when and how.
Instead, the plot thickened.
This being Westporters, everyone had opinions. Lots of opinions.
Some folks feel it’s important to have a 1st-run theater here — though no one knows where.
Others — like Steinberg — believe the best prospect is showing 2nd-run films, like the Community Theater in Fairfield, or “less sexy” offerings like golden oldies, or cult or art films with a theme — something the library, Westport Historical Society and Westport Country Playhouse already do.
Some think a permanent home — even if not a full-fledged theater — is crucial. Others are fine using a variety of venues.
Steinberg thinks Town Hall is perfect. Students hate the idea.
The next step takes place this Monday (March 15), at 7 p.m. in Room 102 of (yes) Town Hall. Interested Westporters are invited to discuss a mission statement, enabling work to go forward.
Steinberg still pushes the “Film Society” idea. Others think that sounds too elitist.
“I’m not going to get hung up on nomenclature or motives,” Steinberg says. “I just want to keep this moving ahead. We have lots of questions to address.”
Soon the group will visit the Avon Theater in Stamford, and towns like Bethel where film thrives. “We’ll see what works there, and figure out what might work here,” Steinberg promises.
Steinberg is pleased that the 1st meeting attracted a broad, wide swath of Westporters, with diverse interests and varied ages.
He is pleased too that library director Maxine Bleiweis asked the group to offer input into the library’s own summer film plans.
And — though Tuesday’s meeting did not produce the consensus around a Film Society, with showings at Town Hall, that he hoped for — Steinberg is not surprised.
A Westporter since the Fine Arts days, he knows that as much as residents love movies, they love arguing even more.
This is one story assured of many sequels.
The day the movies died (1999). (Photo provided by Miggs Burroughs)
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?
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)