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Boston’s Coolidge Corner Theater Reopens After Extensive Renovations

 

To much fanfare and community cheer, the 91-year-old Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline has fully reopened to the public after a decade-long expansion project. The independent outfit has always been a storied destination for those seeking not just the latest cinematic offerings but classic films, festivals, and offbeat movies that are seldom carried by larger commercial chains.

In order to accommodate growing interests (as well as growing costs), the newly expanded space reflects feedback from the community, staff, and the award-winning architecture team of Höweler + Yoon. While the designers have kept homage to the art deco theme that cinephiles expect at Coolidge, the expansion modernizes and addresses pain points like the awkward lines of the previous sole concession area and space limits for their extensive slate of educational and community offerings.

Programs like Big Screen Classics, After Midnite, Senior Matinees, Science on Screen®, Cinema Jukebox,  PANORAMA, The Sounds of Silents®, Kids’ Shows, Rewind!, Box Office Babies, and a slew of adult education film classes have been popular but 4 screens and no additional space for gathering limited the theater’s ability to match the ever-growing interest in one of the oldest and most beloved venues in the Boston area. “Our new expansion allows us to continue to serve and grow our audiences with more curated programming, increased educational and engagement programs, and a more welcoming, accessible experience for all,” remarks Katherine Tallman, Executive Director & CEO and Campaign for the Coolidge Co-Chair.

New features include Moviehouses 5 & 6 which have increased available seats by nearly 200 patrons, a sleek new concession stand, accessibility upgrades, and an Education and Community Engagement Center that opens to a roof deck with stunning views of the Brookline skyline and the bustling square below. The iconic ticket booth will not be in operation, but it will still be visible as a memorial to the theater’s decades of loyal patrons who queued up rain or shine to speak to a box office employee through the intercom.

The balance between nostalgia and modern needs could be felt as press and patrons split between new elevators up to the top floors and the slow climb up stairs decorated with classic film posters like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. It was easy to walk into the engagement space and imagine a vibrant talkback after one of the many screenings, or an intimate wrap party for any of Boston’s film festivals, especially as organizers for Roxbury Film Festival, Independent Film Festival Boston, and others were in attendance.

The additional space will be welcome as the area has seen a strong return to the movies. Previously, patrons would find themselves in lines that stretched up the stairs just to get a popcorn and drink. The second concession counter and new indoor ticket counter will mitigate this. With bright lighting, digital menu screens, and a hard-to-miss donor wall that captures much of the more than $14 million dollars that went into the expansion, the new lobby is a shiny wonder that still feels in-line with this community gem.

Digital is still the way forward, but Coolidge Corner confirmed that they will be keeping their vintage 35 and 70 mm projectors running as well as the iconic opening reel played before each offering since the 50’s.

 

 

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