Town Seeks To Direct Federal Funds Toward ADA Work at Playhouse in Hopes of Reopening


New Canaan Playhouse was built in 1923.

New Canaan’s highest elected official said this week that the town soon will decide whether to allocate $750,000 in federal funds toward readying The Playhouse for a new movie operator. 

Getting the iconic Elm Street theater back in operation is “one of the biggest economic developments we could do locally” with the first tranche of nearly $6 million in federal funding that New Canaan is getting under the America Rescue Plan Act, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.

The $750,000 would be combined with $850,000 already built up through a fund for the 1923-built Playhouse, and together that would be enough “to do all the repairs and code compliance that we need to do to get The Playhouse back in operation,” Moynihan said during the Board fo Selectmen’s regular meeting, held Tuesday at Town Hall and via videoconference. 

“We are working with potential operators who are coming in but we can’t reopen until we have a code-complaint building and refurbished building,” he said.

The Board of Finance and Town Council are expected to review and vote on preliminary recommendations for how to spend about $3.5 million of the federal funds that the selectmen discussed during their meeting. Once approved, the town could start appropriating funds in October and November, Moynihan said.

“Every town and city is doing this differently and they are making their decisions,” he said. “But the whole point of these federal funds is: What do we need to rebound from COVID, both as a government and as residents who were impacted by COVID?”

Here’s a table summarizing the recommendations:

Proposed Allocation of American Rescue Plan Act Funds

Governmental NeedsPurposeAmount
New Canaan PlayhouseCode compliance, refurbishment $750,000
Ice RInkProject costs$100,000
Flexi-PaveTrail at Mead Pond$125,000
Waveny Park ConservancyMatching funds for projects$250,000
Community NeedsPurposeAmount
YMCAExpand infant daycare$250,000
Waveny LifeCare NetworkExpand Telehealth services$250,000
NC Community FoundationAllocations to nonprofits$1 million
Open Space FundExpand open space protection $500,000
Silver Hill HospitalEmergency behavioral healthcare$250,000
Source: Town of New Canaan


Closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and available to a new tenant since Bow Tie Cinemas terminated its lease last December, the iconic movie house already has been approved for new roofing this year. The ADA-related improvements needed will cost a total of about $1.5 million, Moynihan has said.

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