First Selectman: Playhouse on Elm Street Likely To Get New Movie Operator This Year

The town-owned Playhouse on Elm Street likely will have a new movie theater operator installed this year, New Canaan’s highest elected official said Tuesday. 

Vacated as per the termination of an agreement by longtime tenant Bow Tie Cinemas, the iconic 1923-built movie house will undergo some sorely needed capital work and then likely will get “an independent operator right now, in the next year, as far as a movie company,” according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan. “I think there are people that are interested operating [The Playhouse],” Moynihan said during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, held via videoconference. “Not one of the big chains. So I think that is what we are most likely looking at. A different kind of model.”

The comments came as the selectmen reviewed a termination agreement from Bow Tie, which had been expected to rent the largest commercial space in the cupola-topped building through 2022, under the lease, with an option to renew through 2027. 

However, the theater was ordered closed in March as the COVID-19 pandemic set in and then “when they did get the order that they could open, they can’t open,” according to Bill Oestmann, building superintendent in the New Canaan Department of Public Works.

Town Attorney Warns of Unforeseen Restrictions Regarding Popular Pedestrian Alley

Though some are eager to preserve forever a frequently used pedestrian alley downtown, officials say, the town attorney is warning that doing so through an easement could hamstring future municipal leaders. The alley that runs alongside the Playhouse and Le Pain Quotidien, connecting Elm Street to the parking lots behind it, is town-owned property. Though it could be transferred into a trust and then placed under an easement that would guarantee it serves as a pedestrian walkway in perpetuity, Town Attorney Ira bloom is urging town officials to consider that doing so could restrict future generations in unforeseen ways, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said. Asked by a committee of the Planning & Zoning Commission to look into the possibility of an easement, Moynihan said he called on Bloom to investigate it. 

“Some people want to protect it in perpetuity,” Moynihan said. “The counter argument is that you don’t want to restrict future generations of leaders about what to do 100 years from now.”