Moynihan: Movie Operators, Others Interested in Playhouse

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New Canaan already has received several calls from movie operators and others interested in The Playhouse on Elm Street, the town’s highest elected official said Monday.

Though there’s “a lot of sentiment because it’s good to have a movie theater in town,” according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, “we can certainly look at other opportunities to do active performance type things there.”

He spoke during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. Moynihan was responding to a suggestion from Committee member Stuart Sawabini that the group review the use of town-owned buildings. 

“The movie theater—is it good utilization to bring the theater back?” Sawabini said.

“You go right around the town and there’s a long list of buildings, and I just wonder whether periodically it would be advisable for us to go back and look at building utilization and see what we can do to either improve or sell off buildings that we are not using,” he said.

Moynihan disclosed last week that Bow Tie Cinemas is terminating its lease for The Playhouse, which closed mid-March amid the onset of COVID-19 virus. The lease agreement runs through 2022 with an option for the Bow Tie to extend it to 2027. 

Municipal officials for years have viewed the lease as a barrier to extracting more revenue from the iconic 1923-built structure, which has been estimated to have about $2.5 million in capital needs. Five years ago, after those capital needs emerged during budget season, locals said expanding its offerings to include live performances, shifting toward a classic and independent film venue under a public-private partnership or simply continuing as-is were all possibilities.

Moynihan said town officials will “take several months to see what is out there.”

“We are going to know more in mid-January than we do now as to what options are going to be presented to us,” he said.

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