Editorial: Give the Greenfield Garden Cinemas a break

  • The Garden Cinemas in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 6/20/2019 10:35:28 AM
Modified: 6/20/2019 10:35:17 AM

Yesterday’s reporting by Melina Bourdeau exposed the perils facing small business owners in complying with state guidelines. In this case, the owners of the Greenfield Garden Cinemas, George Gohl and Bill Gobeille, are facing a fine of $1,000 a day, starting July 18, if they don’t meet a deadline from the Architectural Access Board for a new chairlift.

That would likely shutter Greenfield Garden Cinemas.

Readers with long memories appreciate the history of this particular theater. According to local movie theater historian Jonathan Boschen, “The Garden Theater was built in 1929 and it was designed by the Mewl and Rand architectural firm for the Goldstein brothers. It was the first and only movie ‘palace’ to be built in all of Franklin County. The Garden was probably everyone’s favorite theater.

“The lobby and foyer of the Garden theater were designed to look like the interior of a Colonial house. The auditorium was designed to look like the courtyard or garden of an old-fashioned Colonial New England Village. To create this illusion, they utilized murals depicting the colonial buildings and covered bridges and features.”

And, of course, there were those twinkling stars and drifting clouds in the ceiling and the authentic movie theater organ, which can still be seen in the lobby.

Contributing to the demise of the downtown movie theater were drive-in theaters and malls that could show more movies. What is now the Big Y plaza once held a multiplex. Once that went up, writes Boschen, that brought about the re-do of the Garden Theater as a multiplex. For which we should all be thankful, as it saved this local historical landmark for another generation of movie-goers and the dollars they bring to downtown Greenfield.

Since then, the owners have invested in converting the theater to digital technology and complying with all building codes that go with operating a public space, including making the theater accessible for theater-goers with disabilities, per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “Over the years,” said Gohl, “we’ve added new hand railings, seating for wheelchairs, hearing-assisted devices, closed captioning — it’s over $100,000 getting upgrades.”

Last on this list of projects is the chair lift, which was installed in the early 1980s. Gohl said he and Gobeille were able to receive a loan for a new chair lift to accomdate motorized wheel chairs, which, including some construction work they did themselves, will cost $45,000 to $60,000. However, as anyone renovating a home knows, things can get complicated. The chair lift work is contingent upon a roof replacement project on the front part of the building, for which the owners have also taken out a loan. (Economics 101: Loans have to be paid back – in this case, out of ticket sales.) “We’re still waiting for estimates, then we will place an order (for the chair lift),” Gohl said. “Then it will be 16 weeks until it’s installed. At this point, it won’t be installed until October.”

That would trigger the $1,000 per day fine starting July 18 set by Architectural Access Board (AAB), which develops and enforces regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to and safe for people with disabilities.

We urge the AAB to extend the deadline for this important upgrade in recognition of the good faith effort on the part of the Greenfield Garden Cinemas owners to meet the needs of all its patrons.

We urge movie-going readers to call, write or email the AAB, urging them to extend the deadline for compliance for Greenfield Garden Cinemas. Here is contact information for the Boston-based Architectural Access Board: 617-727-0660. Email: William Joyce, compliance officer: william.joyce@mass.gov. USPS: 1000 Washington St., Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118.

While you’re at it, take in a movie and buy some popcorn, too. Here’s what’s playing this week: “Men in Black: International,” “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” “Aladdin,” “Dark Phoenix,” “Rocketman,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” and “Ma.” Visit gardencinemas.net for show times.


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