WESTPORT, Conn. – A parking lot behind Tavern on Main in downtown Westport could become the site of Westport’s first movie theater since 1999, when the town's last theater closed.
What do you think of the location Westport Cinema Initiative hopes to build a theater?View Results
What do you think of the location Westport Cinema Initiative hopes to build a theater?
It's great. It's in the heart of town.58%
No good. It will create more traffic and add to parking problems downtown.8%
It's a good idea to have a theater downtown, but is it practical?33%
Westport Cinema Initiative, a nonprofit focused on bringing movie-going back to Westport, signed a letter of intent Monday with Philip Teuscher, owner of the parking lot, to lease that space in the future, said Sandy Lefkowitz, executive director of WCI. Although not a contract, the letter means Teuscher, who also owns 142 Main St., is willing to lease the lot to WCI for use as a movie theater, Lefkowitz said.
“We thought this was the most desirable space from the beginning,” Lefkowitz said Sunday evening in a phone interview. She said WCI has been looking for an ideal theater space for a year-and-a-half.
“What we love about it is it’s so central to downtown. It’s near restaurants, shopping — it’s just a wonderful location,” she said. “We’re happy the landlord and we could come to terms.”
With a location secured, the nonprofit must now get approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission to build in the lot, Lefkowitz said. Although final plans are not in place, she said WCI envisions the building will be two-levels, fit in architecturally with surrounding buildings, accommodate three state-of-the-art screening theaters and a small lobby/café area.
One screening theater may seat 100 and the other two may seat 250 each, Lefkowitz said. “These are generic plans. Nothing is written in stone.”
The theater would also operate as a nonprofit on a membership model similar to the Film Forum in New York City, she said. Most importantly, she said it will be an independent art-house cinema, not a multiplex. Films would include classics, independent films, documentaries and children’s matinees. She said WCI also hopes to incorporate films with educational programing for teens.
If plans are approved, Lefkowitz said, the theater would be paid for by WCI through private donations. Since it was founded last year, WCI has been raising funds and awareness by hosting a series of film screenings.
“If all the stars are aligned, we can have this done within a year,” she said.