Bow Tie Cinemas reportedly willing to invest in Playhouse, but future remains uncertain
NEW CANAAN — With a price tag too large to buy them out, it appears the town will need to play nice with Bow Tie Cinemas when it come to the future of the Playhouse Theater.
But still, the town finds itself in a precarious position, reluctantly in the business of owning a movie theater and renting to a tenant not anxious to give up its long-term lease, except at a high cost.
“There is no appetite to spend money in this year’s budget on the playhouse,” John Engel said on Tuesday.
The town acquired the property at 89 Elm St. in June 2007 for $2.2 million but is uncertain about its future. When asked about Bow Tie’s plans for the theater and whether other options were still being explored, Engel, a Playhouse Committee member, said, “I wish I knew.”
A request for bid (RFB) was issued in October 2016 by the Playhouse Committee. Prospective bidders were asked to address building and maintenance issues and maintain the playhouse as a theater in some capacity while taking input from and working with the town.
According to Engel, the Playhouse Committee recommended the first selectman pursue the only “credible” proposal received from the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield and look for a buyout of Bow Tie’s lease, which he did.
“The present tenant that’s in there, Bow Tie, has got a very, very long-term lease and they’ve expressed no interest in getting out. They’re very, very happy with the movie theater; they like the product; they like the business model,” Mallozzi said.
According to Playhouse Committee Chairman Stephen Karl, conversations have been had between the Prospector and Bow Tie — whose lease extends through 2022, with an option to extend to 2027 — though the town is not interested in mediating going forward.
“We had a meeting with both parties to bring them both up to speed and get them on the same page as to where we are. They both know now where each one stands,” Karl said. “One has the lease, the other has the desire to come in. We’re not going to be the middle person to try to figure that out.”
Mallozzi did suggest that, though Bow Tie was not keen on talking about giving up their lease, they may be open to an alternate solution.
“They’re not interesting in having that discussion, but they are now interested in putting money into that building and maybe taking on that building in perpetuity as a movie theater,” Mallozzi said.
Bow Tie Cinemas did not reply to a request for comment.
Still, Karl said that Bow Tie has promised nothing at this time, though he is encouraged by what appears to be a commitment to investing in their other theaters locally, citing a Bow Tie theater in Norwalk whose lobby features a display of upcoming renovations.
“I don’t know if that’s something they’re planning on doing for more of their theaters, but obviously there’s an appetite for an improved theater experience,” Karl said.