Coolidge Corner Comes ‘Round Bend

The second anniversary of the Coolidge Corner Theater Foundation finds the Brookline, Mass., arthouse having come through another round of its “Perils of Pauline” adventures.

After being saved from the wrecking ball, the two-screen 900-seat house ran smack into the crumbling Massachusetts economy. Fundraising was tough, and even after setting nationwide records for the 50th anniversary revival of “Fantasia” last year, the CCTF was ill-equipped to face a mid-winter slump at the box office. The theater fell two months behind on its rent and the landlord seemed about to foreclose. Last month a deal was cut to temporarily reduce the rent while also obtaining a tax abatement for the property.

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In spite of the recession, this summer also saw the theater’s box office blues blow away with “Europa, Europa” smashing the house record and rounding out a 16-week engagement with over $185,000 in grosses. According to CCTF executive director David Kleiler, the Coolidge usually counts for about 2% of the national gross on an art or specialty release. For “Europa, Europa,” the Coolidge accounted for four times that percentage, trailing only New York in box office dollars.

Now the CCTF board is focusing on fundraising, as well as the possibility of buying the theater space (but not the entire retail/office building complex) in a condo deal. The board also has hired a fulltime development officer to begin looking at ways at improving the CCTF’s financial position. This allows Kleiler to focus on programming and public relations, as well as booking the Somerville Theater across the river.

Currently the Coolidge is continuing its mix of first-run engagements, retrospectives and special events. A recent tribute was held for cinematographer-director Freddie Francis, who is filming his latest pic in Massachusetts. The Coolidge also is one of the venues for the upcoming Boston Jewish Film Festival. The theater celebrates its second anniversary as a nonprofit entity with the local premiere of Jacques Rivette’s four-hour “La Belle Noiseuse.”

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