Customers Call Bank Street Theater a ‘Great Hometown Theater’

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A century has passed since the Bank Street Theater opened, but one thing remains the same: people’s interest in the big screen.

The New Milford Theater, then known as the Star Theater, opened to the public on May 9, 1920 and was considered a state-of-the-art theater at the time.

Over 1,500 people flocked to the venue including a giant auditorium to watch the first film screened there, “Shores Acres”, now a lost movie, and “The Garage”, starring Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.

Today, thousands of customers continue to be drawn to the theater to see the latest blockbusters and other films.


Tara Ewers, director of the theater, said the theater is planning a 100th anniversary celebration but due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans have been put on hold.

“I think it’s an incredible accomplishment for a small business to last this long,” said Ewers, who has worked in the theater for 21 years. “Of course, there have been different owners, but it is a testimony to the city and the community that they still support us after a hundred years.

Theater officials had hoped to screen the original film for the anniversary, but it is now considered a lost film, Ewers said.

Instead, the cinema was planning to show an Arbuckle short that premiered before the original movie for which Myke Foo Media’s Myke Furhman in Town recently provided color correction.

The theater shared the short film on social media to celebrate the company’s milestone.

“When I was a little boy in the 1950s, I would walk around town to the theater with my siblings and friends to see kids’ dishes on Saturday afternoons like ‘King of the Rocketmen’ shorts. and the Walt Disney films Davy Crockett, “Lifetime New Milford said resident Norm Cummings, recalling his childhood in the theater.

“I think popcorn was a dime then and candy bars and sodas were each a nickel, back in the days when coins meant something,” he said.

Cummings described the theater as an auditorium, with a ticket booth open to patrons along the street and concessions just inside the door to the right.

“For me, the theater was as cool as the huge auditorium at Radio City Music Hall,” he said.

Cummings has remained a loyal patron over the years, often enjoying “date night” movies. It ended up “reviving in importance to me in the early 2000s when I regularly saw films like” Stars Wars “,” Ice Age “,” Harry Potter “and” Pirates of the Caribbean “as a chaperone for young close friends., “he said.

Resident Carol McKay remembers going to the theater as a child with her mother and meeting friends there.

“My best memory is the chocolate and caramel candy pom poms,” said McKay, who continued the tradition of bringing a new generation to the theater.

McKay brought his children in the 1990s to the theater. Her daughter, Katie, 26, saw her first movie “Oliver and Company” in theaters when she was 2 years old.

“It’s a wonderful theater,” McKay said, citing its convenience when his children were young.

The evolution of theater

In 1919, William Mock, owner of a silent cinema on Bank Street, decided to build a larger and more modern theater. He bought the building then known as the New England House Hotel across the street, which houses the current Bank Street Theater.

The renovations took several months, but once completed, the theater was a popular destination for residents near and far who “had nothing to do,” Ewers said.

“When it first opened it was spectacular,” said Ewers, who scoured microfiche last year to research the theater’s rich history. “There were ceiling lights, curtains and art deco flourishes.”

The tiling of the current hall is original from the theater.

Mock sold the theater to Steven Panora in 1925 for $ 23,000. Panora invested $ 11,000 in the cinema so that it could show talking films, the first being “The Idle Rich” which premiered on June 26, 1929.

A month later, the city voted to allow films to be shown on Sundays.

In 1937, Panora completed an $ 80,000 renovation and added the carara glass and stainless steel facade and marquee, which still adorns the theater today. He reopened the theater as a 20th century theater.

Panora’s family sold the theater to Arthur Smith, owner of Edmund Town Hall, in 1950. But the theater closed in 1968 upon Smith’s death.

Rocky Barry bought the theater in 1973. In 1982 he reconfigured the single auditorium into two; one with 126 seats and the other with 260. And in 1997, the theater was renovated again, this time with three auditoriums of about 120 seats each. Barry operated the theater until 2005.

Garden Home Cinemas owned it for a short time before Gary Goldring bought it in 2008.

In 2010, a fourth screen was added to the space that originally housed a theater stage. In recent years, the theater has restored the drapery of rooms 1, 2 and 3; installed new seats in rooms 2 and 3; and added a beer and wine room.

Ewers said the theater explored luxury reclining seats, but because the theater is a historic space, there wasn’t enough room to fit them. Instead, oversized synthetic leather seats with lift arms were added, she said.

“We have to constantly think about what our customers want and how we can differentiate ourselves from the bigger chains,” said Ewers.

“It’s not easy for small independent theaters like ours,” said Ewers, who referred to the recent closure of two local independent theaters, Bantam and Bethel Cinemas.

“For us, it’s not just about making our fresh popcorn and having the right selection of snacks,” she said. “It offers special screenings such as Mimosa Matinees, hosts the annual Greater New Milford Film Festival, makes sure we have the right selection of films for our clients, giving back to the community that supports us and, most importantly, being able to offer good Customer Service. “

“We have so many loyal and repeat customers that we are pleased to see every week,” she said.

“Bank Street would be incomplete without this great hometown theater,” said Wendy Clery. “BST not only supports their community through fundraisers and donations, but they bring us together for green movies and fun events for families. “

Cummings said he resumed his trips to BST when he retired in 2015 “to satisfy my love for movies.”

“Netflix and Disney Plus are great, but they’re not Bank Street Theater,” he said. “I hope the theater will be able to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic and be part of my life again soon. “

Offers

The theater offers tickets for $ 5 on Tuesdays; group rates; birthdays, parties and theater rentals; and gift cards. It also offers sensory film screenings.

Given the current pandemic, it is recommended that you call the theater to inquire about theater rentals, as some restrictions are in place.

Many safety protocols are in place amid the pandemic.

All individuals are required to wear face masks. Face masks can be removed once in their seats. Social distancing markers are in the lobby. A limited number of show hours will be offered to allow additional time for improved auditorium cleaning between shows. Auditoriums will be maximized to a level below the 50 percent required to allow even more space between clients in their seats. Customers are recommended to book their tickets in advance.

The Bank Street Theater is located at 46 Bank Street, New Milford. For more information visit www.bankstreettheater.com or, for movie listings, call 860-354-2122.


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