Niantic Cinema 5
279 Main Street,
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Previous Names: Niantic Theatre, Niantic Cinemas
The Niantic Theatre opened along Niantic’s Main Street in 1950. Originally a single screen theatre it has been expanded to its current five-plex status over time by dividing the original auditorium and building new additions.
A sub run theatre for many years, the Niantic Cinemas switched to first run films around the year 2000. A fifth screen was built as an addition in 2003 to make it more competitive with larger first run multiplexes nearby. A large mural of Charlie Chaplin graces the front of the building. It was closed in early-December 2022 due to falling attendances.
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Recent comments (view all 14 comments)
A brief article with three small photos of the Niantic appeared in Boxoffice of November 4, 1950. The article said the house had opened recently with 660 seats.
So it was originally one screen then I guess.
I remember going to see House of Wax with Vincent Price in the 1980’s. I remember the screen was beaded which was much better for its 3D effect. I know that the beaded screen was eventually removed during subsequent renovations. It still is a great theater as it is family run and they don’t gouge you on the concession prices.
According to a New London Day article dated September 27, 1977, the Niantic Theater (later renamed Niantic Cinemas) was owned from around 1952 until at least 1977 by Alphonse and May Dubreull of Wild Rose Place, in nearby Waterford, who also published the Niantic News newspaper. The article was about the Dubreull’s attempting to sell the place.
Here is a fresh link to the November 4, 1950, Boxoffice item about the recently-opened Niantic Theatre.
I can confirm that theater seen in Boxoffice circa 1950 is indeed the same theater that was later split up and expanded for the Niantic Cinemas. There is no other Niantic moviehouse, unless you count the nearby Cameo Theatre, which only operated from 1972 to 1985. The much smaller Cameo (a porn house for all but its first two years) was just behind the Niantic Theatre, across Hope Street and occupying the far end of a strip mall.
If the Markoffs opened a third as-yet unidentified house in Niantic in late 1945, it was long gone by the 1970s. I’ve yet to find ads for a third house, but I’ll keep an eye peeled. Perhaps the Markoffs STARTED work on a theater in late ‘45, but that house later (1950) became this place, run by the Dubreulls?
The 1950 Boxoffice article mentions this theater’s owners also started a local newspaper shortly before the Niantic Theatre opened, which corresponds with the 9-27-77 article mentioning the Dubreulls running both the theater (since the early ‘50s) and the town paper, the Niantic News. So this was the Dubreull’s operation since before the day it opened, not the Markoffs’.
The theatre was first split by ceiling off the balcony for one house, then splitting the downstairs down the middle to create the 3 theatres that exist today in the original building. The 4th and 5th theatres are cinder block structures built on both sides of the original theatre. This is a nice operation in a good location.
The Niantic Theater was closed in March 1980 for renovations, reopening in May as the three-screen Niantic Cinema 1-2-3. Owner George P. Mitchell (who purchased the theater in 1979) told the New London Day (4-25-80) that the old theater seated about 630 people, while the three-screen version seated 200 people in each downstairs theater and 150 more in the balcony that had been turned into an upstairs screen (with rocking chairs). The projection booth was automated at the same time, and a new box office gate was installed with an automatic ticket machine.
The theaters ran mostly second run and foreign film thru late 1982. They added a 280 seat fourth screen in early 1983, by taking the adjoining building (which formerly housed Larson’s Carpet, the Niantic Package Store, and a bowling alley) and “jacking up the roof about 20 feet and redoing the building,” according to the New London Day (3-6-83).
The Niantic Cinema suspended operations after showtimes on September 14, 2022 awaiting more compelling features announced in December. (The theater did feature one short film screening of “Butterfield” on October 15, 2022 as a special event.) On December 7, 2022, the operators rethought that position and decided to make the announced September suspension of regular operations a permanent closure.
There seems to be a lot of rumors about the future of the Niantic Cinema - most people I know what it to get another chance, maybe with a new owner and some remodeling. One rumor is that the main theater itself may be restored for both movies and a live performance venue maybe with tiered table or theater seating. Another rumor is that another company is ready to come in and strip the 5 plex of all its new digital projection, sound system and screens for use elsewhere. That one really hurts I think the city needs to be behind this and make it a non profit facility owned by the city but contracted to manage it. However. it needs some serious upgrades. I wear linely bifocals so I absolutly hate these uncomfortable no head support recliners that seem to be getting installed everywhere. May be mix would be better. Bottom line the theater needs to be saved and the community needs to get involved asap.