‘Everyone’s Movie Theater’: New Canaan Playhouse Reopens to High Praise 


Credit: Mike Mullan/Cinema Lab MMXXIV

The New Canaanite 2024 Summer Internship Program is sponsored by Karp Associates.

Exactly halfway down Elm Street a historic landmark has been given new life. 

The New Canaan Playhouse Theater’s doors finally reopened following a four-plus-year closure.

The new concession at The Playhouse premiere, June 27, 2024. Credit: Terry Dinan

“We are thrilled that after two years and a lot of hard work and commitment from the taxpayers and private investors, New Canaan now has a beautiful, state-of-the-art theater right at the 50 yard line,” New Canaan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Budd said.

Through the front doors, the theater boasts an impressive lobby where a balance of history and modern design coexist harmoniously. Upon entrance, individuals can find to their left a beautiful new bar and on the right, a concession stand from which wafts the redolent aroma of freshly popped popcorn. 

The pub at The Playhouse premiere, June 27, 2024. Credit: Terry Dinan

“When I attended the opening event last week, everyone was blown away at what the team had done to take this beautiful 100-year-old building and turn it into a modern functioning building,” Budd said.

Under renovation for more than one year, the Playhouse was redesigned in a project overseen by the town as well as new operator CinemaLab, a company that specializes in breathing new life into historic movie theaters. CEO Luke Parker Bowles credited the new aesthetic of the theater to his wife, Daniela, and her partners, the project’s designers. 

“We wanted something that felt slightly like an English pub or an English sort of home,” he said. “I think as a result, people are so excited because there’s something new.”

One of the twin theaters at The Playhouse premiere, June 27, 2024. Credit: Terry Dinan

The Playhouse boasts twin theaters, each with four showings per day. 

“At the moment, because it’s blockbuster season, we’re playing everything from ‘Despicable Me’ to Deadpool,’ but as the summer starts to calm down, we’ll be doing independent movies and golden oldies,” Parker Bowles said. “We’ll be doing all sorts of stuff for charities – it was really important when we started this that we said that we’re not just a blockbuster movie theater.”

Officials noted that the theater is a space for all – not an exclusive club. 

The Marquis Lounge at The Playhouse premiere, June 27, 2024. Credit: Terry Dinan

“The Playhouse is for everyone,” Parker Bowles said. “It is for the public. There seems to be some confusion that people think that it’s a ‘member’s cinema.’ ”

To clear up any confusion: Anyone can go see a movie at The Playhouse. (In addition, there is a member’s area on the second floor called the ‘Marquis Lounge.’).

After a short ride up the elevator, members can visit the Lounge, where they can “come up and do meetings or hang out with friends,” Parker Bowles said. “We serve food up to here up to 11 o’clock,—most places here are closed by 9 o’clock.”

The new pub inside The Playhouse on Elm Street. Photo courtesy of CinemaLab

In truth, the Marquis Lounge is a small part of the larger Playhouse Theater experience, which is catered to the public’s enjoyment. 

“This is everyone’s movie theater,” Parker-Bowles said. “This is not some snobby, exclusionary entity.”

“Everything on the first floor, the concessions, the pub, the movie theaters – all of that experience we designed for the town,” he added. In addition to offering the new pub and concessions stand, the theater has forged a partnership with Elm Restaurant, which will provide food. 

Budd said, “It is for everybody and they will be treated to an elevated experience when they come see a movie there.”

Inside one of the twin theaters of The Playhouse on Elm Street. Photo courtesy of CinemaLab

Paul Devlin of the NCHS Class of 1982 attended the theater this past Sunday. 

“They did an absolutely phenomenal job, from the bar that they brought in from Pennsylvania, – it’s like 200 years old – it’s very stylish, it’s very inviting, and it’s very warm, which is something that somebody coming in from the outside wants to see,” he said. “I think they just did a tremendous job from start to finish.”

Given that Darien and Wilton no longer have theaters in their towns, New Canaan’s theater is slated to receive traffic from individuals across Fairfield County, officials say.

Budd said, “Our hope is that a lot of our residents from neighboring towns will choose to come to the Playhouse and that they will then choose to explore New Canaan, shop in our stores, and dine in our restaurants. We really believe that this brand new attraction is going to bring a lot of visitors into New Canaan and be a great resource for our own residents.”

The new lounge inside The Playhouse on Elm Street. Photo courtesy of CinemaLab

The Playhouse Theater is an important landmark here in New Canaan, locals have long said, and with the help of CinemaLab, everyone can now enjoy it. 

“Culture is one of the most important things in civilization,” Parker Bowles said. “I think you can get culture out of food, of course, I think you can get culture out of stores, and there is a lot of culture here.”

“To have something on the halfway line, the 50-yard line, of Elm Street in New Canaan, that offers so many different things to so many different people, I think that is the most important thing of all,” he said, adding: .“I’m honored to be involved and I think that hopefully, this place will be here for another 100 years.”

10 thoughts on “‘Everyone’s Movie Theater’: New Canaan Playhouse Reopens to High Praise 

  1. Many of us are hoping that CinemaLab will bring the movie Empire Waist, written and directed by local Claire Ayoub, to New Canaan.

  2. Our thanks to the summer intern, Tahlia Scherer, for her wonderful article and to Terry Dinan, for his tremendous photos to introduce the Community to this unique and precious place.

  3. There is a huge lack of transparency here. Government has no money. They have taxpayer’s money and have a fiduciary responsibility to spend appropriately and safeguard. Taxpayer’s have footed a huge questionable approximately $5,000,000 cost here. The cost overruns were ridiculous, challenged by the BOF and accounting questions still remain. However the public was not invited to the opening night, only select town official(s) and their families, club members and other select new Canaanites.

    We are led to believe by insiders and the press that New Canaan has already received the $2,000,000 state grant. They have not and may not as the state will not fund a for profit entity and there are other qualifications not met.

    Although I support private enterprise and a landlord is free to choose any qualified tenant, I find it troubling that our tax dollars were spent excessively and questionably to fund a private enterprise with a private club that the high majority of new Canaanites cannot use.


    Roy Abramowitz CPA

    • Without arguing a single point you’ve made — except about the opening night because I mean, Roy, that’s opening night — I would only add that it is a great place to go catch a movie.

      • Sure but $8 million dollars with residents footing the majority of the cost and private investors asking for an accounting. This over spending and overruns must stop! Yes opening night all residents should have been invited. Or perhaps after opening night only for invited dignitaries and their families perhaps a second opening for all secondary non so-called “town dignitaries” taxpayer residents that footed the bill.