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)