New Canaan Playhouse

89 Elm Street,
New Canaan, CT 06840

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Associated Prudential Theaters Inc., Bow-Tie Cinemas, Crown Theatres LLC, Hoyts Cinemas, Northeast Cinemas, Playhouse Operating Co., United Artists Theater Circuit Inc.

Architects: Calvin E. Kiessling

Firms: Davis, McGrath, and Kiessling

Styles: Colonial Revival

Previous Names: The Playhouse

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News About This Theater

New Canaan Playhouse

Dating from September 19, 1923, the Playhouse Theatre was operated by Playhouse Operating Co. by 1929. The New Canaan Playhouse has somehow managed to retain its status as a first run theatre despite having only two screens. It is a former single screen theatre that has been twinned. There is not a traditional marquee but a small wooden sign instead which is probably to conform with local zoning regulations. The theater is yet another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced on December 8, 2020 that the theater would not reopen. The town of New Canaan owns the building and is seeking a new operator.

Contributed by Roger Katz

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 31, 2004 at 4:26 pm

‘The Playhouse’ opened in September 1923. It was designed by architects Davis, McGrath & Kiessling, the exterior being in a Colonial style. Original seating capacity was 500, becoming 460 by 1950.

larryb7313 on December 19, 2004 at 9:45 pm

Crown has now taken over both this theater and wilton theater as of this past week

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on December 23, 2005 at 8:25 pm

Chain should be changed to Crown Theatres.

joemasher on November 25, 2006 at 8:44 am

As of 11/17/06, Bow Tie Cinemas has assumed operation of the Playhouse.

brienlee on October 4, 2008 at 3:37 pm

I worked at the PlayHouse as an usher for two seasons in 1963 and 64. (summers). My aunt was the theater’s manager and my grandfather was the tickettaker for Tuesday matinees. The projectionist was an old guy whose name I can’t remember— he would sit in the lobby in one of the elegant upright chairs (pre-candy counter) and go upstairs as the theater was filling. His belt was way above the waistline.

I enjoyed my infrequent visits to the booth… it probably got me into my lifeline career of being on the AVSquad. It was run by Prudential Theaters

ridethectrain on December 8, 2020 at 9:13 pm

As per article in New Canan Advertiser the theatre is permanently closed.

This is the article from

New Canaan movie theater to close By John Kovach Updated 8:00 pm EST, Tuesday, December 8, 2020

In March, marquee at the New Canaan Playhouse announces that the movie theater on Elm Street closed by order of the director of Health, one of many establishments closed to keep people apart in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Tuesday, the operator announced they were closing. Photo: Grace Duffield / Hearst Connecticut Media / New Canaan Advertiser Photo: Grace Duffield / Hearst Connecticut Media In March, marquee at the New Canaan Playhouse announces that the movie theater on Elm Street closed by order of the director of Health, one of many establishments closed to keep people apart in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Tuesday, the operator announced they were closing.

NEW CANAAN — The downtown movie theater will remain dark once the COVID-19 restrictions end. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan told the Board of Finance Tuesday night that representatives from Bow Tie Cinemas sent a letter to the town, saying they do not intend to resume operations and requested to be let out of their lease. Moynihan told the Board of Finance that the town is committed to having a movie theater in town. The New Canaan Playhouse at 59 Elm St. closed in mid-March when COVID shut down the state, reopened July 1, then announced another “temporary closing” two weeks later.

Read More A letter posted on the door in July read: “Our plan is to reopen when new Hollywood releases are ready to be shared again in theaters. When that time comes, the health and safety of our customers, staff members and the greater movie going community will continue to be our top priority.”

ridethectrain on January 12, 2021 at 10:55 pm

From the NEW CANAAN - As the town agrees to terminate its lease with Bow Tie LLC, town officials announced that there is $826,000 to held in a municipal account to the theater.

The building needs upgrades to be complaint with the American with Disabilities Act and general maintenance.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Tuesday, Jan. 5, to terminate the lease with Bow Tie LLC as of Dec. 31. The lease was originally due to end 2022, with two five-year extensions.

“We have a fund that has built up over the years, because we have not been taking the revenues that we had gotten from lease payments,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan told his fellow selectmen.

Read More
The theater’s general fund balance is $826,063, according to CFO Lunda Asmani, which is not included in the town’s overall general fund.

“We can certainly use some of that money to have some of the basic ADA compliant and things like that done,” Administrative Officer Tucker Murphy said.

Funds are needed “for general maintenance and upgrades as the building has not had much attention over the years,” Murphy explained later.

“So we have a lot of money to work with for the building and also to stand up an operation if we want to be a part of it,” the first selectman said.

Moynihan said he is at peace with the deal. “It is what it is during COVID. You have to accept a lot of lumps along the way,” he said. The people at Bow Tie “have been very good to work with. I think it is unfortunate what happened with their business.”

“They did leave all the projector equipment, which is fairly new, which is four years old and all the equipment that would be needed to get it back up and running,” Building Superintendent Bill Oestmann said.

“The equipment they left is valuable and enables us to start running movies tomorrow if we wanted to,” Moynihan said.

“They also offered us one year to train anyone who wants to take over the business there, provided it isn’t competitors,” Oestmann added.

Moynihan said he is “optimistic” moving forward. “There is interest in operating the theater. We have to figure out what the structure we put in place for an operator, which could be a nonprofit,” the first selectman said.

“We feel we are in the driver’s seat to the extent that that people are reaching out to us. So that’s a good thing. So it is an opportunity in many ways. The next steps will be to gather all that information and see what rises to the top,” Murphy said.

“My sense is that most people want the movie theater to function as a movie theater before we have to turn to alternatives, Moynihan said. “On the one hand no immediate rush because people aren’t rushing to the movies.”

“There has been a lot of interest from residents who have done some research for us and who have sent me information over the last couple of weeks on theaters that they are aware of over,” Murphy said.

Asked if whether the lost revenue from the movie theater could be reimbursed to the town, from either state of national COVID-19 relief that is being distributed to towns.

Oestmann said it would not be since it is revenue.

Written By
Grace Duffield

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