On Thursday, September 10, the Coolidge Corner Theatre broke ground on its $12.5 million expansion on Harvard Street. The expansion will result in a larger main entrance and lobby, two additional screens, and a community education and engagement center, including a roof deck and a catering kitchen for events.
Now, while still entrenched in COVID-19 restrictions, it may seem like an odd time for a project of this size, but this expansion has been a long time coming for the Coolidge. The beloved theatre initially sought air rights for the proposed development back in 2013. After years of fighting to preserve the historic structure and the classic movie-going experience, the Coolidge is finally ready not just to survive but to thrive.
“People have always gathered together to see films,” Coolidge executive director Katherine Tallman told BrooklineHub amid pandemic closures. “People have always loved stories whether they’re written or on film. Films tell stories, and they allow us to hear and experience stories from people from all walks of life and all over the world.”
This film and the Coolidge’s impact on the Brookline community was made clear during the height of the pandemic when donations for the theater poured in despite its doors being closed. Between those donations and a $1 million gift intended to operate as an endowment, the Coolidge remained open during that time and now press forward with this expansion. In some ways, the closures were productive time used to push through the approval and permitting steps for the project.
Because of the nature of the expansion, which primarily builds upward, theater lovers don’t need to worry about losing the qualities of the Coolidge that they cherish. The addition is not meant to alter the integrity of the theater but to provide more services to the loyal Greater Boston clientele. Careful preservation work is being done on the original lobby, the famous Coolidge marquee, and the existing theaters to ensure they are spruced in a historically accurate manner but not altered.
Other community-oriented facets of the expansion include improving accessibility to visitors of all mobility levels and a media library of film books, films on Blu-Ray, and historic Coolidge memorabilia.
Support is still welcome for the Coolidge project. Until September 30, an anonymous donor is matching donations 1:1 up to $400,000. The theater hopes this will get them the final financial push needed for the expansion.
“The film is a very digestible form of art. It’s rather democratic in its pricing. And there is just something about seeing a movie on a big screen with great sound with other people,” says Tallman. “You’re having an engaged community experience. We really need that now.”