Indie movies in downtown Lowell
A group of movie-loving Lowellians with downtown connections has been meeting quietly to in hopes of opening a downtown independent movie theater.
The group includes lawyer Michael Gallagher; his sister and videographer/film editor Caroline Gallagher; Suzanne Cromwell, a downtown Lowed resident who has been one of the prime movers behind the various movie festivals held in Lowed over the past few years; Jay Mason, a Lowell-based architect who has helped restore a number of historic Lowed properties; Paul Schor, community activist; Rich Cavanaugh, local non-profit legal guru; and others. Schor and Cavanaugh also are lawyers who work with Gallager on Shattuck Street, in the historic Lowell Gas Light building.
Over the last several months, the group has studied the rich movie-house history of Lowell; taken road trips to numerous urban movie houses throughout New England; researched the projection and sound equipment needed for a venue; developed capital equipment and operating budgets; drafted the necessary non-profit legal documents; and toured about 15 potential sites in downtown Lowell.
The current concept is for a downtown site, 2,500-4,000 square-feet with 75-125 seats. It would show everything — from popular box-office second-run titles to classic and Golden Age movies to award-winning and festival-circuit films to documentaries to midnight screenings of cult favorites — six days and nights per week with periodic film festivals and filmmaker events.
“It would be a gathering place for movie-lovers of all ages from students to seniors,” Gallagher said. “It would be clean and neat, and have a contemporary feel with first-rate projection and sound equipment.”
Served would be freshly made popcorn and locally made treats as well as coffee, soft drinks, and, possibly, a premium selection of beer and wine.
Ideally, it would also serve as a venue for live performances to supplement the revenue stream from ticket sales.
Now that much of the research and planning is completed, the group is moving ahead on two tracks: identifying the right space and initiating a fundraising campaign.
Gallagher said the fundraising campaign is in its infancy stages. He anticipates needing to raise about $250,000 to rent a site, and obviously more to purchase a location.
“We want to make it work for as reasonable a price as possible,” he said. “But we’re all very optimistic because there isn’t a single person we floated this idea to who hasn’t been excited about it.”
Both Cromwell and Mason agreed.
“Film is the be-all, end-all for me,” said Cromwell, a downtown resident and project assistant at the Cultural Organization of Lowell. “Film brings people together like nothing else. Film evokes emotion in the heart and soul like no other form of entertainment. We in the Merrimack Valley are at a loss for trying to see quality independent films other than the Screening Room in Newburyport.”
Added Mason: “There is a growing desire and gravity in the community that is moving toward this and will see it through. Personally, I think there is more than a decent change that this will be seen through to its fruition.”
So far, the group has toured multiple properties throughout the downtown including the Saab Building on Central Street; the old Union National Bank building on Merrimack Street; the Merrimac Rug building and the corner of Dutton and Market Streets; the old Crown Theater building on Middlesex Street; and the former Sun space on Prescott Street.
The film buffs see the cinema’s operation handled by “local talent” or a volunteer staff, Gallagher said, adding: “A large staff isn’t needed and those who will be involved are motivated by their love of the movies.
“That is not the biggest challenge,” Gallagher added. “The biggest challenge is finding the appropriate space.”Explore posts in the same categories: The Column