OPED: ‘Back to the Future’ at Community Theater
One of the last “major motion pictures” I remember seeing at the Community Theater was “Back to the Future” in the summer of 1985.
Somehow that seems appropriate. If plans announced this week by Sacred Heart University and Kleban Properties succeed, the Community will be showing movies again — and more.
The theater is to become a venue for “high-profile lectures, author talks, unique films, concerts and performances,” according to the announcement Tuesday. The grand opening would be next year, 100 years after the Community first opened.
“Kleban Properties will be looking to the town of Fairfield for assistance in various forms to ensure that this exciting opportunity becomes reality,” Ken Kleban, president of the company, said. That assistance would come in the form of tax abatements.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau was enthusiastic. “I am thrilled that the Community Theater, which has long been an iconic landmark in our town filled with special memories for so many of us, will finally be reopened,” Tetreau said.
Property records show that the 1410 Post Road locale was bought by Norman Pollack in 1976 and then by David Pollack in 2002. According to a 2017 valuation, the property was appraised at $2.6 million.
“Thank you to Kleban Properties and Sacred Heart University for saving this historic gem which will add to the vibrancy of our downtown and help Fairfield’s art and cultural scene continue to flourish,” Tetreau added.
The Community Theater first opened its doors in 1920 and has been shut down since 2011. According to officials, the theater will see a full-scale renovation and will have at least 400 seats by next year.
When I was growing up, the Community, along with the Beverly Theater in Black Rock, were the places to go for kids who wanted to see the latest Disney movies, an afternoon of cartoons, nature films, and more. There was just one screen, and lines of kids, sometimes with their parents, stretched around the block leading to the enclosed glass box office. Tickets were 75 cents. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
If the kids got too loud and rowdy during the movie, the lights would come on, and an usher would come out to yell at the kids to be quiet so everyone could enjoy the show. The usher was usually an older guy with white hair who looked like somebody’s grandfather. While he was at it, he reminded the kids not to make a mess by stepping on popcorn kernals they dropped on the nice carpet.
For teenagers or adults, the upstairs balcony was an option, when it was open. It was the place to go for a little privacy. A lot of times, the movie wasn’t the main attraction for hot-blooded teenagers or young adults.
The economics of the movie industry evolved over the decades, with venues like Fairfield Cinemas showing 10 movies or so, with ample indoor parking and special discounts if you have their courtesy card.
But if the SHU/Kleban proposal succeeds, it will will represent the rebirth, in a way, of a cherished old theater in the center of downtown Fairfield.
“Back to the Future” indeed.