Officials: Bow Tie Cinemas Interested in Restoring, Possibly Purchasing New Canaan Playhouse


The movie theater company that leases the Playhouse building from the town is interested in putting money into the aging brick structure and possibly owning it, New Canaan’s highest elected official said Tuesday.

New Canaan Playhouse on Jan. 24, 2017. Credit: Michael Dinan

Bow Tie Cinemas has “a very, very long-term lease and they have expressed no interest in getting out,” according to First Selectman Rob Mallozzi.

“They are a very happy movie theater,” he said at a regular Board of Selectmen meeting, held at Town Hall. “They like the vibe, they like the business model. They have 143 theaters nationwide and are very prideful to be in New Canaan. In order to even have a conversation about getting out of the lease is about $550,000. They are not interested in having that discussion, but they are now interested in putting money into that building and maybe taking on the building in perpetuity as a movie theater.”

The revelation marks the first substantive development for the Playhouse since a volunteer committee issued a request for proposals in September for parties interested in purchasing or leasing, preserving, renovating and operating the beloved 1923-built theater as an entertainment venue.

On the town’s radar for more than two years, the town-owned Playhouse needs major capital repairs to its roof, exterior, gutters and drainage and sprinkler system. It also needs an elevator and ADA-compliant wheelchair access, and any work would require extensive abatement. Officials have earmarked $3 million for it in the 5-year capital plan.

Asked about the prospect of Bow Tie Cinemas evolving into more than a tenant at the building, Playhouse Committee Chairman Steve Karl said the group “had a brief meeting” with the Ridgefield-based company.

“They did not submit an RFP but because they own the option on the lease, it has become apparent that they are the ones that have the ability to do the upgrades and perhaps even long-term purchase,” Karl said.

Purchased by the town in 2007 for $2,205,000, the theater fetches $110,00 per year in rent from tenants that include Bow Tie, New Canaan CARES, New Canaan Chamber of Commerce and Earth Garden, officials have said.

Bow Tie’s current lease runs through 2022 with an option to extend to 2027, Karl said.

New Canaanites have rallied around the Playhouse at times when its future has been in jeopardy. With help from members of New Canaan’s Franco family, who stepped in to ease the transition, the town acquired the Playhouse for $2,205,000 in August 2007.

When town officials two years ago looked at the costs associated with keeping up the building, residents spoke out in favor of the Playhouse’s continued operation as a venue for entertainment.

According to Mallozzi, a separate group out of Ridgefield also has shown interest in the Playhouse.

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