When it comes to indoor winter activities, taking the family - or just your date - to a great movie is one of our perennial favorites. Not only can you duck out of the cold, but you can escape from your everyday life and unwind, even if just for a few hours.
No one knows more about how movies can enrich your life than Rob Newton, owner of Gloucester’s Cape Ann Cinema and Stage. He lives and breathes cinema, and has followed his passion for decades - culminating in the creation of Gloucester’s very own independently owned single-screen, community-focused cinema.
Cape Ann Cinema and Stage is located above Mystery Train at 21 Main Street, close to St. Peter’s Square. The cinema opened back in July 2009, but has been open at other, smaller locations since 2007 - and will be celebrating its 10th birthday in April.
Newton started the cinema after wrapping up 17 years involved in the video rental business and a career as a film critic including a stint at the Christian Science Monitor, and wanted to stay employed in a similar industry. “I had no other job qualifications,” he joked, “and this worked out. I needed to show movies and people needed a place to see them.” He chooses the movies to show by watching many movies. “I still have press credentials, so I go to a lot of screenings,” he explains. “I know what people want to see, and I pay attention to what they ask me to show at the theater.” Small, indie films and blockbusters alike are available at the cinema, which also shows 3D movies in digital, with the recent addition of a crowdfunded projector. Recently, larger films like Moana and Manchester-By-The-Sea were shown at the theater.
Newton also puts on the very popular summer Harborwalk Movie series, where kids and adults alike gather to watch classics like Grease, The Muppets Movie, and even Jaws outdoors on a huge inflatable movie screen, setting up chairs and blankets on a large piece of astroturf on the Rogers Street I4C2 city-owned lot. Several sponsors help make those movies possible.
The cinema was a somewhat unknown gem for several years before it was on the radar of most Cape Ann residents. “We call those the crickets and tumbleweed days,” Newton joked. However, the cinema now enjoys a bustling crowd for most showings. The cinema does well not only in the winter when everyone is looking to get out of the house and do something, but also in the summer when tourists flock to Cape Ann - and many of us need to relax in a dark, air-conditioned space.
The cinema differs from most typical theaters in that instead of stadium-style, individual seating, you are instead invited to sit on comfortable couches, love seats, and armchairs. Also, while the cinema serves popcorn, tea, snacks, candy, and soda, you are allowed to bring in outside food to the theater! It’s not out of the ordinary at the Cape Ann Cinema to make dinner and a movie a one-stop destination by bringing a takeout meal to your showing. The one guideline is to respect your fellow moviegoers by avoiding strong smelling foods or something loud and distracting. Outside alcohol is strictly prohibited, but the cinema does have a seasonal beer and wine license.
Rob isn’t content to rest on his laurels with the successes the cinema has had recently, however. He continues to grow not only viewership, but in size. The Cinema’s latest addition is a new screening room in the former foyer, which will be christened The Magic Lantern. Named after famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s autobiography, the room will show films with a smaller prospective audience base that the cinema wouldn’t have the time or resources to show in the larger main space. It will be available for low or no cost to organizations on Cape Ann. It will be completed in about a month.
“The purpose of The Magic Lantern is twofold,” Newton explains. “To both broaden the selection of films we offer and to create enough extra revenue every year to cover all the expenses of occupancy.” But that’s not all he is looking forward to. “Within 2 years or so, we'd like to buy our condo unit, and the air rights to build one story up. We could build 2 screening rooms and a roof deck to show outdoor movies in the summer.”
The Cape Ann Cinema and Stage is for more than just public movie showings. Private showings, parties, live events like drag shows, and much more are available at the space - and it can be rented for birthday parties, corporate outings, and more.
Local businesses can take advantage of worthwhile marketing opportunities at the cinema and help another local establishment at the same time. For instance an annual partnership package, priced at $799, provides one pre-show ad for every movie shown for an entire year, plus additional perks like 50 movie tickets, a four-hour non-primetime usage of the cinema, a link on the website, and a business card or literature in the lobby of the cinema.
The cinema has come quite a long way in the past decade, and is poised to get even better in the next few years. “I'm proudest of our patrons, for supporting this crazy dream through thick and thin,” says Newton.
Upcoming showings for the Cape Ann Cinema and Stage are as follows (always check the website for up to date movie times and advanced tickets):