Amherst Cinema Arts Center

28 Amity Street,
Amherst, MA 01002

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Amherst Cinema - 2001 - Before Conversion to ACAC

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built in 1926, the Amherst Cinema was created out of an old stable in downtown Amherst, Massachusetts.

For seven decades, the Amherst Cinema delighted audiences with first and then later second-run fare. Competition from the AMC Mountain Farms 4 and the now demolished AMC Hampshire 6 made life difficult over the years. By 2000, Amherst Cinema, along with the nearby Rivoli, closed its doors. Ironically, the theater outlived nearby Hampshire Mall 6, which was demolished months earlier.

The theater, which was owned by Western Massachusetts Theater’s owner Richard Goldstein, was acquired by local residents who had hoped to turn it into a cultural and performing arts center. (The theater was one of many that were once part of the Western Massachusetts Theater circuit that included the Rivoli, Hippodrome (formerly Paramount), Calvin, and more.)

The project was stopped and started numerous times.

When the theater closed in 2001, the town of Amherst, which is home to Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts, lost its only movie house.

In November 2006, the renovated theater was reopened as the three-screen Amherst Cinema Arts Center, featuring both mainstream and independent film. The triplex is a new addition to the building, as the original auditorium was gutted during the renovation to turn into retail shops. In 2012, a fourth screen named the Studio was added which has seating for 25.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

spectrum
spectrum on March 27, 2007 at 7:43 pm

For many years there were two other venues in Amherst showing movies. the Town Hall Auditorium showed movies until 1955 when town offices were built in that space. The ceiling remained intact as attic space and when the 2nd floor rooms were removed in a 1980’s renovation, they were revealed again and restored. Unfortunately they built a new 2nd and third floor in the building and once again, the old ceiling is attic space. The proscenium is sadly gone. This space must have seated close to 1,000.

The other venue was an auditorium built as part of the Jones Library in 1926. That seated about 300 and showed films for many years. In 1968 when the library was renovated, a 2nd floor sliced the auditorium horizontally, with book stacks going into the stagehouse area. The ceilings curved close down over patrons in the new room, curving to the floor on the sides. I believe it was called the Burnett Room.

In the late 80s or rearly 90s the library was renovated again and the floor removed and stage area walled off, and the room restored as the main adult meeting room. The curved deiling still remains but it’s all modern white walls in the room now.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 26, 2007 at 3:51 am

The architects for the renovation, Khun-Riddle Architects, describe the project thusly:

“A multi-use conversion of an unoccupied, 1920s town-center cinema to include a new 3-screen cinema addition, retail, restaurant and office space.”
So this does confirm that the three current auditoriums are in an entirely new wing of the building, while the old theatre has been converted to other uses.

spectrum
spectrum on May 26, 2009 at 11:06 am

The Kuhn-Riddle page has a nice photo of the main auditorium. Sleek modern decor, black walls with horitontal silver lines and stylish square white lights across the walls. Bright blue stadium-style seating. Large screen, with great sound and projection. Seats about 175 (the other cinemas are around 80 and 45 seats.) Even the smallest one is stadium seating.) The other two screens have the same style decor. Film fare is first run, primarily of the art and foreign film genres.

davcharl
davcharl on November 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I was a concessionaire at Amherst Cinema in the late 70’s. I made and sold the popcorn. Also the candy and soda. We would run weeklong reviews of old film legends. The Reagan week was playing while the guv was visiting his son at Amherst.
There was indeed a near riot when we went from hard core to soft core porn. Lots of requests for extra butter on the popcorn back then.
If the evening was slow, I would trade a big bag of popcorn for a Whole Wheat Pizza, delivered. We both got a good deal.
I miss the old cinema. The Drake, too. Nothing but a bunch of yuppies now. And The Drake is now The Perry.

davcharl
davcharl on November 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I was a concessionaire at Amherst Cinema in the late 70’s. I made and sold the popcorn. Also the candy and soda. We would run weeklong reviews of old film legends. The Reagan week was playing while the guv was visiting his son at Amherst.
There was indeed a near riot when we went from hard core to soft core porn. Lots of requests for extra butter on the popcorn back then.
If the evening was slow, I would trade a big bag of popcorn for a Whole Wheat Pizza, delivered. We both got a good deal.
I miss the old cinema. The Drake, too. Nothing but a bunch of yuppies now. And The Drake is now The Perry.

spectrum
spectrum on April 26, 2011 at 8:12 am

In response to Joe Vogel’s question, the backmost part of the original theater (the front part of the auditorium, proscenium and stage area) was widened to the left and right bu quite a bit. Into that area they built the new cinemas. The remainder of the Amherst Cinema was gutted and converted into stores & restaurants.

pomeroy_h
pomeroy_h on March 29, 2012 at 7:32 am

The new Amherst Cinema is great. They show decent movies, the staff is polite, and the space is clean. I like that the theater is in downtown Amherst, not out in the malls. The hand dryers work really well.

Harold Pomeroy

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 27, 2013 at 8:01 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Amherst Theatre. There is an exterior photo taken in May 1941 on Main St. The theater was in Good condition, and had been showing MGM product for over 10 years. There were 844 orchestra seats and 300 balcony seats, total: 1,144 seats.

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