Modernizing the Movie Theater

Jennifer Wallace

Changes to downtown, specifically the movie theater, can disrupt the town’s personality; what’s happening?
What used to be a place filled with spilled popcorn and the sounds of laughter from the characters and audience, now sits vacant. Niantic’s beloved downtown movie theater closed down near the end of the summer. The huge building contains five theaters, a lobby, and a snack bar. The theater closed due to lack of business that started during COVID and is still owned by Peter Mitchell. While Mr. Mitchell is disappointed the theater had to close, he is excited to see the future of the building. First Selectman Kevin Seery has been leading the project of revamping downtown. He and Mitchell have been working closely together to figure out what to do with the movie theater building. “We are really eager to rent it. I think we’re going to subdivide the building and have many businesses in there,” Mr. Mitchell said. They are hoping the movie theater will resemble The Kate when finished: art shows, live music, and activity centers for younger generations; though the developer hasn’t submitted any plans. Years ago, the Yale School of Architecture
looked at downtown Niantic and gave suggestions on how to make the town a tourist draw. One of the suggestions was for Main Street to become a restaurant row. While this is nice for older generations, it leaves a lack of activities for younger generations. “(There is an) urge to have a lot of activities downtown,” Mr. Mitchell said. During the COVID outbreak in 2020, the town was given money from the state; they have decided to have the Yale School of Architecture assess downtown again. EL plans to take the suggestions into consideration while approving changes to businesses. Their plan is to keep personality to the buildings while modernizing them. Mr. Seery urges individualization of buildings to keep Niantic’s personality alive. The old police station still stands empty and owned by Dominion Energy. The town is deciding whether or not to buy the building from Dominion or let them keep it and eventually sell it to a developer to be commercialized. “In late March early April, we will go to the town with some ideas for it (old police station),” said Mr. Seery. While much of the town’s improvements are still up in the air, updates and plans are expected for spring.