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‘A historic day’: Coolidge Corner Theatre debuts expanded space

The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline officially opened the doors to its brand-new expanded space, allowing long-time patrons and cinephiles to explore the new renovations on Wednesday.

The expanded section of Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline. The renovated space featuring new screens and community spaces was unveiled during a ribbon ceremony on Wednesday. XIAOYA SHAO/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Designed by Boston architecture firm Höweler + Yoon, the 14,000 square-foot expansion features an expanded lobby, two new screens and a community engagement center with a view of Brookline.

“This is, of course, a historic day in the life of the Coolidge,” said Katherine Tallman, executive director and CEO of the theater, during the ceremony. “We’re opening a space that has been in the making for over ten years. Now [it’s] complete and full of possibility.”

Coolidge board members, theatre patrons and local politicians attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, including Massachusetts state Rep. Tommy Vitolo.

“All 200 legislators voted for [the expansion],” Vitolo said during the ceremony. “Every single state Rep. and state senator in this state loves this theater.” 

Vitolo stressed the economic importance the theater holds in Brookline.

“Nobody just comes to the Coolidge Corner Theater,” Vitolo said. “They go to dinner or get a drink or buy a book or something else, and at the very least, they put money into the parking meter. Everyone who comes to this theater is also supporting the economic center of this town.”

Michael Bobbitt, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, shared enthusiasm over the impact of the new Education and Community Engagement Center. 

“We all know that film has an ability to reach across culture and reach so many people,” Bobbitt said during the ceremony. “Now that we have this education center here, we can do that in such a profound and deep way.”

Construction on the expansion began in November 2021. At the ceremony, Eric Höweler, the co-founding principal of Höweler + Yoon, emphasized the importance of maintaining the historic Art Deco architecture when it came to designing the expansion.

“Art Deco is an attitude about the future,” Höweler said. “It’s about optimism. It’s about progress. It’s about technology … It celebrates electricity, communication, radio, film [and] television.”

Höweler said the Art Deco design — which stems from the 1920s and 30s — gave the team “a whole language of architecture.” He described the eight-year collaborative effort of the project as a “fantastic process.”

“Looking at it today, I do see the community here and beyond here,” Höweler said. “The theatre built this community, and that’s really pretty special.”

This sense of community extended to the funding for the expansion as well, with the “Campaign for the Coolidge” receiving over 1,000 donors, raising $12.5 million, over 90% of its campaign goal.

“The community is really why we are here and why we have the future that we have ahead of us,” Tallman said. 

To commemorate the public opening, the Coolidge held screenings of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Wizard of Oz” in the new theatres. Both of these films inspired Höweler + Yoon when designing the expansion, according to a press release.

Alexis Martin, a patron attending the first screening of “The Wizard of Oz,” said she favors the experience of attending a community theater as opposed to a theater chain where she knows what to expect. 

“It’s just a fun experience [at the Coolidge],” Martin said. “It’s always different every time you come here.”

Martin said she enjoyed the modern design of the expansion, but is still appreciative of how the Coolidge kept its original rooms so as to not lose its historical feel. 

Lily Hutchins, another patron at the opening screenings, highlighted the theater’s student discount and uniqueness. 

“It’s not like AMC or other bigger theaters where it’s kind of the same everywhere,” Hutchins said. “It’s a better vibe, and for less.”

Hutchins appreciates that the theater decided on an expansion rather than a whole revamp of the building.

“I like that they added a chic, more modern design but then also kept some of their original stuff,” Hutchins said. 

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