Ridgefield Playhouse

25 Prospect Street,
Ridgefield, CT 06877

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Jeffrey1955 on November 29, 2014 at 2:30 pm

This theater is now known as The Prospector, after having been demolished and rebuilt to look (front facade, at least) like the original Ridgefield Playhouse. All future information about the new version will be posted under The Prospector.

Jeffrey1955 on October 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

The facade will apparently not be “saved” — it will be “recreated” using “as much of the old building’s bricks as possible”… Anyway, demolition is now underway, and I’m posting some pics I snapped today with my lousy cell phone camera in the photo section. (The fact that they spray-painted “DEMO” all over the bricks on the facade makes me wonder how they’re planning to reuse them; but hey, it makes as much sense as an article about the theater’s demolition being headlined “Theater revival under way”… or the point I made before that this will give Ridgefield TWO non-profit theaters to support, including the one that took this theater’s name.)

Theater revival under way Robert Miller Updated 10:42 p.m., Friday, September 14, 2012 NewsTimes.com Read more: http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Theater-revival-under-way-3866524.php#ixzz29mYE3Fp0 RIDGEFIELD — Valerie Jensen — dressed for the occasion in black gown, pink carpenter’s tool belt and black Converse All-Star sneakers with shocking pink laces — popped a confetti-filled champagne bottle in front of the old Ridgefield Playhouse. The theater’s rebirth as The Prospector was about to begin. “All right,‘’ she said Friday. "Let’s go to the movies.‘’ Jensen was officiating the start of the demolition of the town’s 1939 movie house, turned bank, turned vacant building. In 18 months, she hopes, it will reopen as a three-screen theater showing a range of films — current releases, independent films, classics. Her love of the theater, she admitted, began in 2009, when the Ridgfield Library — which owned the old theater — realized the building could not be used as part of its expansion. The library proposed to tear the theater down. "I had passed this building a million times and never thought about it,‘’ Jensen said. "I went inside. I looked at the theater and the theater looked at me. It was love at first sight.‘’ Jensen is the head of SPHERE — Special People Housing Education Recreation and Employment — which works with people with disabilities. While she’s made two movies for SPHERE, she admits she has no experience running a theater. But she was able to get the financing to buy the theater from the library for $2.55 million. She will now tear the building down. The new building will duplicate the old theater’s facade lobby, using as much of the old building’s bricks as possible. The project will then add on the three new cinemas — one with 150 seats, a second with 120, and a third with 150 seats that can be used for parties and special events. First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the crowd gathered at the ground-breaking of seeing the Alfred Hitchcock classic "Psycho'‘ as an 11-year-old, then running home, scared to death by the menace of a demented Tony Perkins. Oblivious to the world, he ran into a telephone pole, and ripped his new jacket. Which then gave him something else to be scared of. "My mother was so mad at me,’‘ he said. ; 203-731-3345

© 2012 Hearst Communications

bicyclereporter on June 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Plans are now fast as this will be demolished. The facade will be saved and it will be rebuilt as the Prospector Theatre; a 3-screen cinema and arts center. http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Library-theater-plans-move-ahead-3649373.php

Jeffrey1955 on June 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm

From the Danbury News-Times:

Library, theater plans move ahead Posted: 06/20/2012 2:20 PM RIDGEFIELD — Work on two interlocking projects — the $20 million Ridgefield Library and the Prospector Theatre — are poised to begin work within the next six weeks.

When the work is completed in late 2013, it will change the downtown landscape.

“It’s a radically important nexus for the town,‘’ said Planning and Zoning Commission member Michael Autuori of the two buildings.

The commission gave unanimous approval to the two projects Tuesday. It still must give final approval to the draft decision, but that’s expected to follow without issue.

“I’ve only seen the commission change its mind on draft decisions a couple of times,‘’ said attorney Robert Jewell, representing the library at Tuesday’s meeting. "This isn’t going to be one of those times.‘’

The move now allows the two projects to move forward.

“We have the financing,‘’ said Valerie Jensen, the leader of the move to demolish the old Ridgefield Playhouse on Prospect Street and rebuild it as the Prospector, a three-screen cinema and arts center.

Copyright © 2011 Hearst Communications Inc

Jeffrey1955 on April 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I’m still unclear on where a non-profit group is getting the money to buy the building and completely rebuild it, but it’s better than the alternative. As for what’s inside — I doubt there’s much to see. It’s empty offices. The truly absurd part of this story is that the Ridgefield Playhouse, if it reopens, can’t be called the Ridgefield Playhouse, because there’s now another Ridgefield Playhouse, which was originally the old high school auditorium. Which begs the question: If this foundation has the money to buy the original and rebuild it as a triplex, couldn’t they allow the current Ridgefield Playhouse, which is also a struggling non-profit, to co-occupy the old one and change the name back, rather than attempt to get the town to support TWO non-profit theaters?

bicyclereporter on April 18, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Right-o. Maybe folks can finally see what’s inside. http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Plans-for-old-theater-take-shape-3491933.php

Jeffrey1955 on April 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm

New developments on the old Ridgefield Playhouse, which could be resurrected under a new name: http://www.acorn-online.com/joomla15/theridgefieldpress/news/localnews/119646-three-screen-theater-will-be-hearing-tuesday.html

Jeffrey1955 on September 15, 2009 at 11:27 pm

That’s a wonderful editorial, though I question the idea that even if the old Playhouse building is preserved, it can be used for “new programming — plays, film, music and fine art.” Well, fine art, maybe… but the actual theater auditorium was long ago turned into bank offices.

shoeshoe14 on September 15, 2009 at 10:06 pm

An editorial today in the News-Times about the saved demolition.

There are no small stages
Keep the arts alive at Ridgefield playhouses
Updated: 09/15/2009 08:38:50 PM EDT

Two playhouses in Ridgefield are hanging on and in jeopardy of disappearing. We certainly hope they both make it, and we urge people who support the arts on a personal and corporate level to step forward and make sure it happens.

The old Ridgefield Playhouse, across Prospect Street from Ridgefield Library, has been saved from the bulldozer, if only for now. The library, which owns the playhouse, is looking for more usable space and applied for a demolition permit to knock down the building.

Library expansion and preserving a historic landmark are both worthwhile projects. And Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi has convened a task force to see whether both can be done.

We hope they come up with a solution, and that it brings new programming — plays, film, music and fine art — to the old theater. Rather than just preserving, for its quaint appearance, a 1940 building that’s on the state Register of Historic Places, make the place breathe again.

The other Ridgefield Playhouse, which opened in 2000 in a restored theater at 80 East Ridge, has seen audiences dwindle over the last year.

Ridgefield doesn’t book the big names that play Connecticut venues such as the XL Center, Mohegan Sun Arena and Comcast Theatre (once called the Meadows). But offbeat booking should be considered the playhouse’s strength, not a weakness.

The Ridgefield Playhouse has a lineup of coming attractions that includes alternative folksinger/songwriter Ani DiFranco,
pop/jazz trumpeter and music mogul Herb Alpert, bluesman Keb' Mo' — along with theater and film programming that includes a series of live conversations with directors.

You don’t find that kind of variety in many places.

Event sponsorship matters in determining the nonprofit Ridgefield Playhouse’s fate. So do ticket sales. If the box office steers the playhouse to tweak its booking choices toward popular tastes, that fine.

We hope the Ridgefield playhouses ride out this rough patch. Art and culture are important — in good times and bad. And there should always be a place for an independent, nonprofit venue.

Jeffrey1955 on September 10, 2009 at 9:34 am

p.s. Note an error in both the “About the old playhouse” at the bottom of the July 27, 2009 post above and in the initial timeline that I posted: the timeline says it closed in 1970 and the later post says it was remodeled as a bank in 1970. I know this is not possible, as I attended a movie at the Playhouse and could not possibly have done so prior to 1971 (in fact, I thought it was 1972). Also, the posts by the former manager and the brother of the former usher above both state they worked there until 1971.

Jeffrey1955 on September 10, 2009 at 9:23 am

Yes, the News-Times article is about the present Ridgefield Playhouse that I referred to in a note to the initial theater description. That one, the former high school auditorium, is described thusly in the article:

“The 500-seat Ridgefield Playhouse opened its doors in 2000. The old Ridgefield High School auditorium was restored to the Cass Gilbert Jr.-designed theater of its heyday. That restoration came from the generosity of many sponsors, two town funds, a state-awarded grant and more than 600 families and local businesses making donations.”

It’s interesting that even that high school auditorium has a great pedigree: designed by Cass Gilbert, Jr., the son of Cass Gilbert, famed architect who designed the Woolworth Building and the U.S. Supreme Court. The senior Gilbert had a house in Ridgefield (now the Keeler Tavern) and designed the town’s signature fountain at the intersection of Rt. 35 and 33. Gilbert Jr. was mainly known for working with his father and completing some of his projects, including the Supreme Court, after his death in 1934.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on September 9, 2009 at 7:54 pm

That article is about the other Ridgefield Playhouse, the newer one in the old high school. This page is for the old Ridgefield Playhouse.

shoeshoe14 on September 9, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Piece in the News-Times today on the possible closing of this great venue. I have friends that work here and that’s a sad thing. Great acoustics, great music and lots of Hollywood actors/directors that live in the area who give their time for lectures. The only problem with this venue is the WASPS who populate each show.


Roger Katz
Roger Katz on July 27, 2009 at 4:16 am

Old Ridgefield Playhouse’s run extended
Fate of historic Ridgefield theater on hold until summer’s end
By Robert Miller
Staff Writer
Updated: 07/16/2009 12:04:39 AM EDT

RIDGEFIELD — The old playhouse on Prospect Street — an aging relic, but part of the town’s streetscape for nearly 50 years — will be spared, at least through the summer.

“If we can save it, great,‘’ First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Monday. "If we can’t, it’ll be a sad day for Ridgefield.‘’

“It’s something all the stakeholders really need to look at,‘’ Chris Nolan, the director of Ridgefield Library, said Tuesday.

The building, owned by the library, had figured into its long-delayed plans for expansion. But in January, the library board decided the condition of the old theater had deteriorated past the point of its use as an addition.

Rather than continue to pay about $200,000 in taxes and upkeep, the board decided to raze it.

That upset many residents, who remember the theater as the town’s foremost movie house. The theater was added to the state’s Register of Historic Places and people began to discuss its salvation in earnest.

At the request of the library board, the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission granted a 65-day stay in the demolition permit, until Sept. 18. The library board is also asking the Board of Selectmen to defer its tax payments on the building.

Marconi said that should be enough time to create a subcommittee that will try to find ways to preserve the building. Marconi has said he’s had inquiries from people who would be willing to buy the building and restore it.

“There’s no agreement, nothing
in writing,‘’ he said. "But there are interested parties.‘’

Marconi stressed Monday the interests of the library come first in town. But he also said saving a building with historic significance in the center of town is a worthy goal as well.

He said he’s received more than 130 calls, letters and e-mails about the fate of the theater, with most urging him to try to save the building.

That many not seem like a lot in a town of about 24,500 people, Marconi said, “but normally, I don’t get any.‘’

Nolan said delaying the fate of the old theater — which until recently had been used as an office of Webster Bank — gives the town a chance to look at the short-term and long-term issues facing the library.

That was the library board’s viewpoint when it discussed the theater with Marconi in June, she said. “We need to look at the issues globally.”

The long-term problem is that the town’s library building is too small, aging and not adequate for the library’s continually increasing use.

The library board has discussed expansion for about seven years.

“We have about 24,500 people in town,‘’ she said. "The population isn’t growing that much. The library just gets used more. And we’ve been facing issues of deferred maintenance.‘’

Marconi said, however, the recession may allow the town some breathing room to plan for the future.

“Everything’s on hold,‘’ he said.

Marconi said the town, having established a village district commission to preserve the look of the center of town, should also think of buildings like the old theater, which lies just outside the town’s historic district.

“This is a building that represents a lot of history in town,‘’ he said. "Once it’s gone, it’s gone. That street will never be the same. It will always look different.‘’

Contact Robert Miller


or at (203) 731-3345.
About the old playhouse The old Ridgefield Playhouse was: Constructed in 1940. Designed by renowned theater architect John Eberson. The only Colonial Revival-style building Eberson designed. Of the 160 theaters he designed, only 12 still stand. Orginally a movie theater. Built by local businessman A.J. Carnell, with the backing of the library, which sold Carnell the land for the theater. Townspeople enthusiastically purchased bonds to help finance its construction. Remodeled as a bank in 1970 and now vacant. Source: State Register of Historic Places

shoeshoe14 on April 28, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Beat me to the punch. Thanks.

Jeffrey1955 on April 27, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Wait — a possible reprieve?

Old Ridgefield Playhouse could become a museum
By Susan Tuz
Updated: 04/27/2009 08:40:50 PM EDT

RIDGEFIELD — A new idea might save the old Ridgefield Playhouse on Prospect Street from demolition.

At least that’s what some residents are hoping.

Community activist John Papa came up with the idea of establishing a Ridgefield history museum, and the old playhouse is a possible site for it.

The building is owned by the Ridgefield Library, which originally planned to use it to expand library.

But when the library board of directors learned the extent of its deterioration and the cost of renovations, it decided the building should be razed.

Since that plan was reported in January, concerned residents have worked to persuade the library board to save the structure.

“I think it’s a terrific idea to have a museum in town,” said Marion Roth, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. “But the old playhouse building belongs to the Ridgefield Library, and this shouldn’t go to the court of public opinion until the library board has a chance to consider it. It is a private building.

“But if a portion of it could be devoted to the history of the town,” Roth continued, “that could be tied into the library and would be good for everyone.”

Roth said she was approached by “someone who is putting the idea of a history museum together.”

Chris Nolan, executive director of the library, confirmed rumors it was Papa.

Papa declined comment Monday, saying only that he was “talking to a lot of people about a lot of ideas."
He added that he wanted to "make sure things were done right.”

Nolan said Monday the board had just responded to Papa’s request for a meeting to discuss using the building for a museum. A time and date has not been be set.

“It’s a great idea. It’s wonderful. There’s a lot of great ideas out there right now for the building, but the question is, who would pay for it?” Nolan said. “There’s a lot of great ideas, but there has to be dollars. The question is, who would be assuming the costs?”

The building at 25 Prospect St. was added to the state Register of Historic Places in a decision reached March 4 by the State Historic Preservation Council.

It was accepted for its contribution to the streetscape and its Colonial revival-style exterior. The interior was remodeled to be used as a bank several years ago.

Contact Susan Tuz


or (203) 731-3352.
The old Ridgefield Playhouse

Ridgefield Library, which owns the 25 Prospect St. building, has been asked to consider having it used as a Ridgefield museum rather than demolishing it.

It was built in 1939 as a movie theater.

In the 1970s, the interior was remodeled for use as bank.

The library bought it for $1.5 million in 2000 to use for expansion.

In January, the library board decided the building should be demolished due to deterioration and its $200,000 annual upkeep cost.

In March, it was added to the Connecticut Register of Historic Places.

Jeffrey1955 on February 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

The plot thickens… (finally!)

Some Ridgefielders want old playhouse saved
By Susan Tuz
Danbury News-Times
Updated: 02/03/2009 12:31:44 AM EST

RIDGEFIELD — An impassioned open letter from Ridgefield business owner Suzanne Brennan to the town’s first selectman and the board of directors of Ridgefield Library to save the old playhouse from demolition is being circulated by e-mail.

“I urge you to please demonstrate a commitment to preserving this architecturally, historically and artistically significant link to our past,” Brennan tells Rudy Marconi, Peter Coffin, and the library’s director, Chris Nolan, in an open letter she is circulating by e-mail.

“While saving some of our beautiful old buildings may not make dollars and cents, each time one is demolished a bit of history is wiped away forever and another disconnect between generations takes place,” Brennan wrote.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi, who has boyhood memories of the building, agrees it should be saved, and Coffin, the chairman of the library board, said he is not immune from “sentimental feelings” about Ridgefield’s old buildings because he also grew up here.

Originally built in the 1920s as the Ridgefield Playhouse, the structure had live shows for a time and later began showing silent movies. It remained the town’s only movie theater through Marconi’s and Coffin’s childhoods.

The library board decided last week that Prospect Street building, which most recently housed Webster Bank, should be torn down. When the library bought it in 2000, it was to be part of a library expansion, with a cost of $1.5 million to
preserve its facade.

With the recent downturn in the economy, the expansion has been put on hold, and taxes and upkeep on the building are some $200,000 annually, Coffin said.

Since stories about the demolition decision ran The News-Times and the town paper over the weekend, Marconi said, “I’m hearing from both sides at this point, those who think it’s an old, deteriorated building and should be torn down and those residents who want it saved.

“I’m 100 percent opposed to demolishing it. Once that building is gone, it’s gone forever.

“That’s where you went to go to the movies,” Marconi recalled. “That’s where I went with my family to see ‘The Sound of Music.’ As you looked down Prospect Street there were some wonderful old houses. Not one of them is left today.”

A town “changes as it grows,” he said, but “change needs to be controlled. That street has changed so much. Let’s not lose the last original remaining building.”

Coffin said Monday the board has “spoken to our donors, our advisory board” and fiscal reality requires that the building be demolished.

He said the board’s responsibility is to keep the library operating and providing free services to residents. The playhouse building is a drain on scant resources.

“We can’t have someone come in to lease the building for 20 years and commit to putting in the money needed to renovate it. We’re trying to stay true to our mission.”

Coffin, an architect, said the building is in “bad shape” and the library will need to expand where it sits at some point.

“I understand the sentimental argument to preserve the building,” he said, “but it really doesn’t trump our fiscal responsibility to the library and the residents of the town.”

Contact Susan Tuz
or (203) 731-3352.

Jeffrey1955 on January 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm

It appears that’s it for the building; it’s to be demolished, according to the News-Times (which includes a current photo that you can view at http://tinyurl.com/bso4s5, though I don’t know for how long — but again fails to mention that it was ever a theater!) for no other reason than they don’t know what else to do with it:

Ridgefield Library to demolish previous Webster Bank building
By Susan Tuz
Updated: 01/30/2009 11:58:46 PM EST

RIDGEFIELD — The Ridgefield Library board of directors plans to demolish the old Webster Bank building it purchased in 2000.

The space was to be part of a library expansion, but the economic downturn has put the expansion on hold.

The bank building’s upkeep and needed renovations would burden the library budget, according to the board.

“The decision was made for financial reasons after several months of carefully researching” alternatives, board treasurer Peter Authier said in a prepared press release.

The building was only partially renovated in the past last eight years, and Webster Bank, which leased it, moved out in November.

To rent the building to a new tenant would require a minimum $300,000 in capital improvements, the board said. And the cost to prepare the building for library use would be more than $1.5 million.

Because mortgage payments, utility costs and taxes would be some $200,000 annually, the board thinks tearing the building down is the best decision. The demolition is being arranged, but no date has been set.

The need for more library space is still considered pressing. In the past year more than 308,000 items were loaned out, and the number is increasing, said board chairman Peter Coffin. There are days when more than 1,400 people use the library.

“The library board is committed to meeting the needs of the townspeople in a fiscally responsible manner,” Coffin said in the press release. “We will be ready with the best plan possible when the time is right.”

Contact Susan Tuz


or (203) 731-3352.

k2ds on April 9, 2007 at 9:17 am

Who is your brother? I was the manager from 1970 until 1971 when I was transfered to the Steinway Theater in NYC.

atmos on January 21, 2007 at 1:08 am

It believe this theatre was designed by John Eberson.

barkingart on December 7, 2006 at 2:50 pm

My older brother was an usher at the Ridgefield playhouse from 1969 to 1971. It had an interior similar to the Danbury Palace theater befor it was converted to 3 screens- Somewhat art nouveau, with columns on either side of the stage (yes, there was a stage, so it wasn’t just for films). Velvet covered cast iron seats and carpeted floor. I remember seeing Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Concert for Bangledesh, The Living Desert and The Vanishing Prairie there. As long as my brother was working, I was allowed to see the film for free, so sometimes I would go 3 or more times a week. I usually sat up front and many times I was the only person in the theater.

Jeffrey1955 on November 20, 2006 at 3:06 am

According to an article in today’s Danbury News-Times, the Ridgefield Library has plans to expand that will include demolishing the Webster Bank building — which was, of course, the original Ridgefield Playhouse, though that fact is not mentioned in the story.
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