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Westport Cinema Group Takes Big Steps

WESTPORT, Conn. – No longer is the Westport Cinema Initiative simply talking about bringing a movie theater back to downtown Westport — this grassroots organization of movie lovers is making it happen.

The group has officially received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status from the IRS, and it has identified three downtown venues that could serve as a future theater.

"This isn't just an idea anymore," said Sandy Lefkowitz, director of Westport Cinema Initiative. "This is real. People are taking us very seriously."

Currently, Lefkowitz said the group is in the discussion phase with the three sites. The first location is a lot behind the Main Street restaurant Tavern on Main. The second is the building at 154 Post Road E., which currently houses the main post office. The third location is the space on Main Street where The Gap used to be.

The goal, Lefkowitz said, is to open a two-screen independent art house cinema in two years. Westport Cinema Initiative is a nonprofit, she said, so the cinema would be membership driven. A mix of independent films, cult classics, old-fashioned Westerns and movies by local filmmakers are among the types of movies that would be shown at the theater.

In September, the organization is launching a $4 million fundraising campaign. This money, Lefkowitz said, will cover building costs, operating costs and an endowment fund.

"Because the cinema will be membership driven, the more money we get upfront will makes a difference," she said.

Since March, Westport Cinema Initiative has hosted a series of free movie screenings to generate public interest in a downtown movie theater. On July 18, the group is showing "Grease," starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, at the Levitt Pavilion. A screening of Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" is planned for Sept. 17. The venue for this screening has yet to be decided, Lefkowitz said.

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