Playhouse Movie Theater To Reopen to the Public Friday; Special Premiere Thursday [PHOTOS]


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

New Canaan’s iconic 101-year-old movie theater, The Playhouse on Elm Street, is set to reopen to the public on Friday following a four-year closure.

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

The completely renovated, twin-screen theater—brought back to life following an agreement with New Jersey-based CinemaLab to operate the town-owned building—is set for a special invite-only premiere Thursday night and then will open to the general public with Ryan Reynolds’s movie “If.”

The town Police Commission last week approved the theater’s operational plan to make a big splash of Thursday’s premiere. Represented by town resident Jayne Benton, the cupola-topped theater will see the Playhouse Lot out back closed in the early afternoon for guests of the premiere to gather for a red carpet entrance down the LPQ alley and into the building. 

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

“All of our guests are going to enter down the alleyway down a red carpet, turn the corner and go in the front door,” Benton told members of the appointed body at their June 20 meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “But we don’t need to block off the whole sidewalk. We have some stanchions that are going to go along there, as well, because we’d like to be able to have people walking in front of the Playhouse and kind of being a part of the whole thing.”

The whole thing has been a long time coming and eagerly anticipated by New Canaanites. 

Closed at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and available to a new tenant since later that year, when Bow Tie Cinemas terminated its lease, the Playhouse originally was scheduled to reopen for its centennial (2023) but that date has been pushed back amid construction delays.

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

Benton said she’s worked with police to have two extra-duty officers on hand for the premiere “and we will likely have one in the front, because if anyone has accessibility issues they’ll need to be dropped off in the front there and then walk right in, and then we’ll have somebody up at the top of the stairs directing people up there.”

Organizers also will have a searchlight trailer across Elm Street to illuminate the front of the building, she said.

Commissioners asked when setup for the big premiere will start (around noon on Thursday) and whether approval has been obtained by the administrative team known as the “Special Events Committee,” which works to ensure large gatherings do not overlap or cause traffic or other problems (yes), as well as whether organizers obtained the proper insurance (yes). 

The marquee is back up outside The Playhouse. Credit: Michael Dinan

Commission Chair Paul Foley, Secretary Shekaiba Bennett and member Jim McLaughlin voted 3-0 in favor of approving the plan for this week. 

In a recent MSNBC interview with Mika Brzezinski, CinemaLab CEO Luke Parker-Bowles said movie theaters such as The Playhouse have “It’s an experience,” he said. “It’s not just a beautiful movie theater, it’s not just a pub, because all of them have pubs—not bars, bars are for shots—pubs are for enjoying. Also having an event space, having a club. All of these elements we want you to be able to essentially spend your whole day there. It’s like a community center, but elevated. So you can do your work, you can meet your friends for a drink while your kids are watching a movie… People don’t want to get into cars and drive for 25 minutes from New Canaan to get to a big box theater. God bless AMC, but it’s not like everybody knows your name, and all our staff will know the names of everyone. It’s your Cheers, if you will.”

5 thoughts on “Playhouse Movie Theater To Reopen to the Public Friday; Special Premiere Thursday [PHOTOS]

  1. Looking forward to seeing a movie in our town’s shiny new movie theater. Having a cinema in downtown was a big draw for me when searching for a place to call home.

  2. That’s very exciting news! Our family has always loved that theater, and can’t wait to see it in person. Thanks to all who worked on the renovation of this New Canaan landmark.

  3. Wow, it’s beautiful! I saw so many movies there as a kid growing up in NC. It’s amazing to see how beautifully they rebuilt it! I’ll be back at the end of Sept and just might check out a flick there!

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