Cinema Lab Unveils Newly Enhanced New Canaan Playhouse Movie Theater

NEW CANAAN, CT — The Playhouse, a cherished New Canaan movie theater whose history dates back over a century, will reopen to the public Friday with a number of exciting enhancements, some of which cannot be found in any area theaters.

In November 2022, news broke that The Playhouse theater on Elm Street, which has been closed since 2020, would reopen under new owners Cinema Lab.

Located in the heart of downtown New Canaan, The Playhouse first opened in 1923. In 1986, the theater added a second auditorium.

Find out what's happening in New Canaanwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Brandon Jones, chief marketing officer for Cinema Lab, said he and his team were immediately struck by how beautiful the building was and strongly believed it should be restored.

“Everybody we met in the town said ‘we miss having a movie theater in our town,’ and I think that’s the really important piece of it,” Jones said. “You can jump on the highway, but the nearest theater is 20 minutes away via highway when a lot of these towns are truly missing the heartbeat and the soul [of a community]. Movie theaters are such an epicenter of the culture and creativity in a place where family and friends gather, so we really do mean it when we say come and watch a movie, grab a drink, enjoy a bite and meet a friend, because that’s the heartbeat.”

Find out what's happening in New Canaanwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Founded by film and television producer Luke Parker Bowles, former Soho House CFO Andy Childs and Jones, Cinema Lab aims to reimagine landmark theaters into community entertainment centers that celebrate film and forge lasting connections among patrons, according to additional press materials provided by Cinema Lab.

Actor and producer Patrick Wilson also serves as head of experience for Cinema Lab, a still relatively young company that opened its first theater in 2021.

“Movies influence culture,” Jones said, “and it’s really important to us that these iconic buildings in the heart of these towns are restored and refined and create a cinema going experience at the level it should be today so that people can go on and make memories for the next 100 years.”

New Enhancements

When the Cinema Lab team first came across the then-shuttered Playhouse in the summer of 2022, they were immediately inspired by both the town of New Canaan itself and how beautiful the long-standing building was, according to Jones.

After raising money and working with the town, the building underwent “about 18 or 19 months” of construction and renovation, Jones said.

When it reopens to the public this week, guests will be able to enjoy traditional concessions like popcorn, candy and soda, however the real highlights will be enhancements like a new pub offering drinks and food.

“It’s a real pub,” Jones said, “a gathering place. It’s not a bar where you have shots, it’s a pub where you sit and have conversations.”

Food and drinks from the pub can also be brought into the theaters, both of which seat a little over 100 people.

The seats themselves are unique, as the Cinema Lab team brought them in from Norway. Jones described them as “luxury wide rockers” with a small side table for concessions and a large cupholder.

He also noted the seats do not feature the kick out foot rest that has become common at area movie theaters due to their distracting nature.

“These are great, comfortable, oversized, luxury seats…I think we’re one of the first, if not the first, to bring these seats over from the U.K.,” Jones said. “We really respect the moviegoing experience, so we wanted to create auditoriums for people who want to get away from distractions and be immersed in the moviegoing experience.”

The renovated theater also features a second-floor event space that will double as a member’s club and include a small plates menu designed by Chef Luke Venner of Elm restaurant in New Canaan.

“We believe that having a membership component is something that makes what Cinema Lab does economically viable,” Jones said. “The movie theater is important, but as you know the challenges with running a movie theater alone is very difficult, so you have to introduce other revenue streams. That second floor has really changed everything about what Cinema Lab is focused on, creating this social environment where people want to come and gather whether they are going to a movie or not.”

Exciting Entertainment

Jones also acknowledge that while the film exhibition business has its ups and downs, he and the Cinema Lab team believe the business overall is strong right now.

As an example, he noted the Pixar Animation Studios movie “Inside Out 2” recently broke a number of box office records after opening nationwide earlier this month.

“We believe the state of the industry is still very strong and people will come out in droves, especially when you’re curating content for the area you live in,” Jones said, “and that’s why we form local advisory boards and panels so we can work with them and talk about what types of movies they want to see.”

The Playhouse will primarily have two Hollywood films showing at all times, possibly a couple more depending on what show schedules they can run, Jones said.

This week, the theater will play “If” and “A Quiet Place: Day One,” both of which feature “The Office” actor John Krasinski as a director or producer. Jones teased that guests at the theater this week will also be treated to a special video message from Krasinski.

Future movies scheduled to play at the theater throughout July include “Despicable Me 4,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Twisters” and “Deadpool & Wolverine,” according to Jones.

“We will also do some alternate programming where we bring in independent films or we bring in different film series,” Jones said. “That could be a documentary series, it could be a kids’ series, it could be a retrospective series.”

Cinema Lab also works with a number of filmmakers and actors, many of which will often host “talkbacks” at their theaters. Jones said they hope to host their first New Canaan “talkback” event in July.
Click Here:

“That’s where the membership is so important,” Jones said, “because as a member you have special access to things like filmmaker talkbacks and advance ticketing notification, things like that.”

Jones emphasized that Cinema Lab designed The Playhouse to be a community space, where eager moviegoers can escape the heat and get lost in a new summer blockbuster while guests just looking for a space to socialize and enjoy a drink or small plate can feel comfortable doing so without even stepping into the auditoriums.

“I will say this, and I will say this boldly, The Playhouse is the most beautiful movie theater in the United States,” Jones said. “I don’t believe that anybody would have walked into this town and done what we have done to this building. I just don’t believe that vision is out there right now.”

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.

0 thoughts on “Cinema Lab Unveils Newly Enhanced New Canaan Playhouse Movie Theater”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *