Garden Cinemas

353-67 Main Street,
Greenfield, MA 01301

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Garden Cinemas - 2001

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Garden Theater was a small town single screen gem when it was first built in the 1920’s. Murals depicting the hills and gardens of the area were painted on its walls. Later, under the ownership of Western Massachusetts Theaters, the movie house was carved into six underwhelming screens in 1986.

Despite its closing in 2000, Richard Goldstein of Western Massachusetts Theaters re-purchased the Garden Theater from the city of Greenfield in February 2001.

The city had previously taken over the now six-plexed theater due to unpaid taxes. The town, which repaired and operated the theater while Goldstein was preparing to pay off the tax burden, was reluctant to return the theater to Goldstein because of his poor treatment of several theaters in the area.

Of all of the Western Massachusetts theaters, only the Garden has remained in operation as a movie house. The Rivoli, Amherst, Calvin, Showplace, and others have either been converted, demolished, or sold.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

bcnett
bcnett on October 3, 2007 at 3:45 pm

What happened to it?

spectrum
spectrum on November 14, 2007 at 12:23 pm

The organ remained in use until the theater was converted into a seven-plex in the late 1980s. I presume it was sold, but unfortunately have no idea who it was sold to. I would really like to know whether the original walls are preserved behind all the multiplexing. At least the original rear railing behind the seats still exists in the balcony spaces. The stairs to the balcony are still the original creaking wood underneath the new carpeting!

jflundy
jflundy on January 5, 2008 at 8:30 am

I attended the Garden in July 1964. At that time the seats were all wooden with no padding but comfortable. It was an evening show and very few people were there. I can’t recall what was playing as I was not interested, but spent most of my time prowling around. I had high speed color film in my 35mm camera and tried taking photos with time exposures. Only a few came out. I may still have them somewhere. The building was sited on a hill side, sloping down from Main Street where the entrance was located. On the left side of the theater next to the stage was a very, very long staircase leading down the hill to a fire exit. About a third of the way back from the stage on each wall were small attraction boards announcing that shows changed on certain days

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on July 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I was passing through last week on a cycling trip. Long and wide main street and many families were going to see movies as it was dinnertime. I found it quite amazing that even though it was carved up, the marquee fills up the night sky and local unvacant storefronts and it doesn’t feel like a multiplex. It is sandwiched nicely where it is.

crownx
crownx on October 24, 2008 at 5:14 am

The two local men that have run the Garden Cinemas since 2000 have bought the buildinng that houses the Main street landmark. – a change that was greeted Thursday with enthusiasm by officials involved in rejuvenating downtown.
George Gohl and William Gobeille sealed the deal with the former owner Ronald Goldstein. The building hoses the seven cinemas, a tailor shop, a nail salon, a former framery, a baseball card place and Brad’s Place.
The cinemas have already renovated thetare 2, 6 and 7 amd will renovate 1 & 3 in January and 4 and 5 in March and April.

From Greefield Recorder October 24, 2008

danpetitpas
danpetitpas on October 28, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Cinemas site acquired in Greenfield
Friday, October 24, 2008

By DAVID A. VALLETTE

GREENFIELD – A key property in the city’s Bank Row urban renewal district has been sold, and its new owners said they will embark on a renovation and redevelopment plan.

The Main Street building that houses Greenfield Garden Cinemas was purchased for $850,000 by George D. Gohl and William J. Gobeille.

Up until the sale, the two men operated the seven-screen cinema under a rental agreement with Western Massachusetts Theaters Inc., a Goldstein family corporation. The closing was on Wednesday.

Gobeille said on Thursday that they expect to pump about $250,000 into improvements on the short term, and move on from there. New seating for four of the seven cinemas that were not improved during a previous upgrade was ordered earlier in the day, and the installation will begin in January after the seats arrive.

The building’s upper floor will be prepared for commercial tenants, starting later next year, he said.

Town Councilor William F. Martin, chairman of the city’s Redevelopment Authority, said on Thursday that Gohl and Gobeille’s acquisition of the building was “thrilling” news.

He said it assured a good fate for the once-threatened cinemas, and relieved the authority of the financial burden of taking on the building itself.

Money that would have had to go to the building’s purchase can now be focused on construction of a parking garage to support all the businesses expected to result from redevelopment in the district, he said.

The authority has acquired three buildings on Bank Row, around the corner from the theater building. And it is in the process of securing the former Hapco Auto Parts building on Olive Street, located just around the other corner of the Bank Row block.

The Hapco building will be razed and used as the main entrance to the parking garage, under the authority’s redevelopment plan.

The Garden Theater was built by brothers Samuel and Nathan Goldstein 1929, and continued through the years in Goldstein family ownership, until its sale by Ronald Goldstein.

The Goldstein family once owned many theaters throughout Western Massachusetts, and have slowly sold most of them off.

In 1999, after Goldstein closed the Garden Theater, which was in disrepair, the historic building’s fate was up in the air. It was put on the top 10 most-endangered site list of Preservation MASS, a non-profit preservation organization.

Subsequently, Greenfield took the building for unpaid taxes, and repaired its roof for possibly resumption of theater operations, only to have Goldstein appeal the taking and regain the property for $136,000 to cover taxes and costs.

The building is known for its original architecture, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with its elaborate murals, it employed machinery in the orchestra pit that created moving clouds and twinkling stars on the ceiling.

Since the theater was carved up into seven smaller cinemas in 1986, the murals are covered and cannot be seen.

The subdivision also dropped the seating capacity from an original 1,887 to the current 1,000.

spectrum
spectrum on March 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm

According to their website, even they do not know what happened to the organ. They estimate conservatively they draw 90,000 patrons per year.

spectrum
spectrum on December 15, 2010 at 7:31 am

According to this article in the Greenfield Recorder (http://www.recorder.com/story.cfm?id_no=8307371), the owners are putting the cinema up for dsale, which could delay a possible renovation of the building into a performing arts center. It’s a complicated scenario, but hopefully something gets worked out. A renovation could possibly move five of the cinema screens into neighboring buildings and restore much of the original auditorium.

jaboschen
jaboschen on May 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm

This may be slightly off topic (my apologize), but I do feel it is important as it does relate to the Greenfield Garden Theater: The Goldstein Brothers built another Colonial Atmospheric theater similar to the Garden Theater in Athol Massachusetts called the Capitol. The theater opened in 1930 (a year after the Garden) and according to the Athol newspapers was much more elaborate then the Greenfield Garden. (They also stated the residents of Greenfield would be jealous of the Capitol.) This theater was a smaller non-identical sister theater to the Garden. The auditorium had the twinkling stars, cloud machines, the recreation of a new England Town on the walls, etc.. However I do not know if the town was a giant mural, similar to the Garden’s, or miniature buildings actually constructed; several articles in the Athol papers, at the time of the opening, state that a Water wheel was constructed in the auditorium. The lobby and Foyer of the Capitol was quite different from the Garden. While the Garden’s lobby & foyer were designed to look like an old new England parlor, the Capitol’s were designed to look like the interior of a covered bridge. The facade to the Capitol was quite different from the Garden. The facade was UNIQUE, very difficult to describe (imagine something similar to the Westwood Crests facade only much smaller and done over in a Colonial style). However the Capitol’s marquee and vertical sign are almost Identical to the Garden’s.

Here is a link to the Capitol theater’s Cinema Treasures page: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/27414

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