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Now playing: The bigger, better Coolidge Corner Theatre is here

The new lobby at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. Photo by Artemisia Luk
March 26, 2024

Four hundred people gathered at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Tuesday, filling the red-and-gold-plated Movie House 1 with an excited buzz to celebrate the opening of the theater’s long-awaited expansion.

The $14 million, three-story addition to the theater, which officially opens to the public on Wednesday, adds a new larger lobby and ticketing area, two new screens and a top-floor education and community room with a sweeping view of the surrounding Coolidge Corner.

“This is a historic day in the life of the Coolidge Theatre,” said Michael Maynard, co-chair of the campaign to fund the new expansion, as he addressed the packed theater along with CEO Kathy Tallman and state and local elected officials.

The expansion’s two new screens are the 145-seat Movie House 5, aptly dubbed “The Red Room,” and the smaller “Blue Room” which will seat 49. The new 60-seat classroom and community room on the top floor, with big windows and a balcony, will host more of the classes and seminars on filmmaking and film history which the Coolidge has become known for.

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Movie House 5, dubbed “The Red Room,” is a new screening room which holds 145 people. Photo by Artemisia Luk

The expansion was designed by Boston-based architecture firm Höweler + Yoon. Construction began in November 2021, but the plan has been 10 years in the making. There were setbacks during the process, including a burst pipe flooding the basement and supply chain issues delaying the delivery of electrical panels.

Architect Eric Höweler said that he was inspired to create a homage to cinema through the interaction of the mediums of light, sound and architecture.

“Looking out today, I see the community both here and beyond,” Höweler said. “The theater built this community, and that’s special.”

Along with millions raised from donors, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency working to elevate existing programs and expand community access to the arts, also contributed roughly $1.7 million to the expansion

“Our renovation and expansion cements [this theater] as one of America’s leading art associations,” said Michael Bobbitt, executive director of the council.

The expansion plan first came in front of Brookline’s Town Meeting back in 2013. Back then, the plans entailed just one additional screening room of 180 seats, but its ambition grew.

“No one just comes to the theater,” said Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who represents Brookline in the State House and was a Town Meeting member who supported the plan early on. “They go to dinner, get a drink, buy a book, and at least put money in the parking meters. They support the economy of Brookline.”

Vitolo spoke about gaining support from 200 legislators on Beacon Hill for the expansion, and how his nine-year-old daughter remembered the theater’s iconic red and gold colors after only three visits.

“I’m so glad this theater is a little bigger and a little shinier than it used to be,” Vitolo said.

Tallman and David Rosenthal, the chairman of the theater’s board of directors, closed the remarks by reflecting on the history of the theater and the relationship it has with the community of Brookline.

“We’ve had so much community support since this theater opened in 1933,” Tallman said. “When we closed for Covid we received donations the very next day, this community is why we’re here.”

As “Also sprach Zarathustra,” the iconic theme to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” played through the movie house’s theaters, the dignitaries on stage cut a ribbon and ushered in a new era of arts in Brookline.

Theater leaders and local elected officials cut a ribbon to celebrate the opening of the expansion. Photo by Artemisia Luk

Afterward, the auditorium emptied as 400 excited theater members and community members toured the shiny new screening rooms and education center. On Wednesday, March 27, the two new theaters will have inaugural screenings of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

Rosenthal said the opening helps solidify the theater as a landmark arts and education institution in Brookline.

“Not only have we made sure the Coolidge fulfills its mission to Brookline, but that it’s also here for a long, long time,” he said.

See more photos of the grand opening:

  • The exterior of the Coolidge Corner Theatre expansion. Photo by Artemisia Luk