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A Remarkable Revival

The Plot Thickens in Westport's Cinema Quest

Article by Jen Berniker and Margie Jacobsen

Photography by Marina Derman and Diane Johnson

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Westport has a storied history when it comes to the arts. An “artist colony” for well over a century, Westport was -- and still is -- home to more than its share of authors, artists and actors. (And those are just the “a”s!) Add filmmakers and film buffs and storytellers of all stripes and Westport's artistic pedigree is undeniable. What Westport no longer has, however, is a dedicated movie theater to screen those films, host related discussions, and share a collective filmgoing experience. This feels like a loss. 

Another absence that's often overlooked is our town’s lack of meaningful employment opportunities for its capable adults with developmental disabilities. Despite their talent and drive, they struggle to find decent work, purpose and a community.

When the dedicated cinephiles of WCI (Westport Cinema Initiative) and disability advocates of CAPE (Creating Acceptance through Purposeful Employment) came together in 2019 - in a cinematic peanut-butter-meets-chocolate moment - the Remarkable Theater was born. 

Yes, “Remarkable Theater” is an homage to the long-loved downtown anchor, the Remarkable Bookshop, but also much more. It’s a connector to the independent spirit of that mom and pop bookshop and other one-of-a-kind shops that once lined our Main Street. It’s also a reminder of the unique qualities that shine in each of us -- regardless of ability. And it accurately sums up the theater’s mission -- to create a vibrant arts space and community hub where conversation and cultural exploration flow. In a world full of multiplexes, the Remarkable Theater will stand out as one of the area’s premier, state-of-the-art, independent arthouse cinemas. 

Doug Tirola, documentary filmmaker and member of the Remarkable Board of Directors, explains that,  in a town filled with chain stores and patrons with our noses in our cellphones, a local theater would also boost foot traffic and a sense of connectedness:  "Imagine standing in line for a movie ticket and talking to friends, neighbors and strangers.  Movies bring us together, and they give us destinations for date nights, teenager nights, and summer strolls."

Can’t wait to sink into a reclining seat with a hot tub of popcorn? Me neither. Right now the board is searching for the perfect downtown location and preparing to launch a vital capital campaign. They say they have received "excellent feed-back from town officials and have support from the P&Z."  In the meantime, the Remarkable Popcorn Cart is popping up downtown and at town events throughout Westport. The cart, staffed by trained members of the Remarkable Workforce, has been popping and selling hot movie theater popcorn all fall … and will continue at indoor events and venues until spring. Follow Remarkable Theater on Facebook and Instagram to see where it will pop up next! And in 2020, prepare for a series of pop-up movie screenings, where the group will continue its efforts by showing great movies, employing an underserved part of the workforce, and giving Westport a taste of the theater to come.

There were once four movie theaters in Westport.  Fine Arts 1 & 2 seated 700. It's run lasted from 1916-1999, when it became Restoration Hardware.  Behind it on Jesup Road was Fine Arts 3 (now Matsu Sushi), and the Post Cinema was a mile further east on the Post Road.

  • Members of the Remarkable Theater serve up fresh popcorn on Main Street
  • The Fine Arts Theater at 80 Post Road East in 1940