‘A treasure’: Newton community trying to save beloved cinema that could close after nearly 90 years

NEWTON, Mass. — The West Newton Cinema has been a fixture of its neighborhood for almost 90 years, but it now faces the prospect of closing its curtains permanently.

The cinema’s six screens feature of a wider range of movies, from foreign films to the latest Marvel flicks, than are usually found at one of the megaplexes.

There is hope for a happy ending, however.

“It’s important to me because it’s really a cultural icon,” said Susan Bernstein, a co-director of the West Newton Cinema Foundation. “It’s a very different experience from what you will have if you go to a megaplex or a huge movie theater. This is really a treasure.”

As an independent theater, it’s a place movie lovers really appreciate.

Marti Katz, a frequent patron said, “This is one of the few places we can see independent films and it’s just part of our neighborhood, very homey.”

The cinema faces a big challenge to stay open.

Bernstein says the building was sold to a developer last August, but the deal included some caveats.

A non-profit foundation would need to be created and would then have the option to buy the building back at the same price which was $5.6 million.

The West Newton Cinema Foundation is now tasked with raising those funds.

“It is daunting,” said Bernstein.

So far, they’ve raised about $1 million towards the goal. They have until August 2024 to come up with the remainder.

The vision for the building on Washington Street is an updated facility with a broader vision.

“We will have filmmakers who will come and speak about their films,” explained Bernstein. “We’re going to have authors who will come and talk about their books, and we hope to have a performance space.”

Support for the efforts in Newton is also coming from Hollywood.

Academy award-winning actor Chris Cooper, who calls Massachusetts home, recorded a video.

“I’m asking the community to get behind non-profit West Newton Cinema in their effort to preserve the place that has been so special to so many people since its opening in 1937.”

Decorated director John Sayles is also lending a hand.

“We can’t keep making movies if there’s nowhere to show them.”

Bernstein hopes the West Newton Cinema will be able to show movies for years to come.

“We know we can do it if the community steps up.”

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