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Westport Nonprofit Takes Big Step Toward Building Downtown Theater

A sign near the 154 Main St. property marks the possible location of a future Westport theater. Photo Credit: Salvatore Trifilio
The site of the future Westport Theater, 154 Main St., is located directly behind the property shown above. Photo Credit: Salvatore Trifilio

WESTPORT, Conn. -- Downtown has always been a thriving social center for Westport, with retail stores, restaurants and the Westport Country Playhouse. However, since 1999, Main Street has been without a movie theater.

But that could all change soon. Sandy Lefkowitz, director of the nonprofit Westport Cinema Initiative , told the Daily Voice that the goal to build a new theater downtown may be realized sooner than many thought.

“We have identified a property and signed an intent of ground lease for 154 Main St.,” Lefkowitz said Tuesday. “We’re planning on building a three-screen theater that will be about a $4 million project.”

Philip Teuscher, owner of the Main Street property, agreed to the intent of ground lease with the Westport Cinema Initiative, Lefkowitz said.

Despite this important step forward, obstacles still remain. According to Lefkowitz, the property is “unbuildable” at the moment and is a dirt lot often used for parking.

Lefkowitz and the Westport Cinema Initiative are working with architects and contractors to come up with plans they expect to present to the town’s Zoning and Planning boards “around May or June,” she said.

“This space is unbuildable because of zoning regulations,” Lefkowitz said. “It abuts two spaces [Teuscher] already owns, and will require variances for us to build on. … But we’ve spoken to people in town and [getting those variances] is possible.”

The Westport Cinema Initiative is hoping the support gathered in the community, through bimonthly film screenings and events at Town Hall and Christ and Holy Trinity Church, will work in their favor when applying for variances.

“If the town wants this bad enough, then yes, we will get those variances,” Lefkowitz said.

A town over, Fairfield’s seemingly abandoned community theater has not raised concerns. Lefkowitz said the group has investigated the Post Road community theater in Fairfield and said there is no reason for it to be closed.

“The model of [Westport’s] movie theater is something like the Film Forum in New York,” Lefkowitz said. Current, independent and local filmmakers’ movies will have a place if all goes according to plan.

For now, Lefkowitz said, the Westport Cinema Initiative is raising funds through a capital campaign and preparing for Zoning and Planning Board meetings.

“It’s a real community effort,” she said. “We are looking for a couple of people who think it is so important, that they say I’m all in for naming rights.”

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