Garden Cinemas sold: City Councilor Isaac Mass and wife, Angela, to take over by mid-month

  • By mid-November, Isaac Mass and his wife, Angela, will own Garden Cinemas in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2019 9:54:21 PM

GREENFIELD — Local lawyer and outgoing At-Large City Councilor Isaac Mass remembers going to movies at the theater on Main Street when he was a teen and working there as a projectionist when he was studying for the bar exam a decade ago. By mid-November, he and his wife, Angela, will own Garden Cinemas.

The 90-year-old city landmark will welcome its third owner in history just before Nov. 15, Mass said. After 20 years, George Gohl and Bill Gobeille will pass ownership to Mass and his wife, a math teacher and Student Council advisor at Greenfield High School. Mass said he will continue to practice law, but will “scale back” a bit to have time to run the business.

During school vacations and out-of-school times, Mass said his wife will spend more time at the theater, and he said his three daughters are excited to participate.

The Masses hope to buy what is known as the Garden Block — which is on the National Register of Historic Buildings — some time next year, but said they will take control of the business just in time for the release of “Charlie’s Angels,” “Ford v Ferrari” and “Good Liars,” while Gohl and Gobeille complete the installation of a new mechanical chairlift to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.

The Masses said they plan to make some improvements of their own, including “freshening things up” and updating the carpeting. They said they hope to repaint and illuminate the iconic marquis and install new features to celebrate the theater’s historic role in the community.

Mass said he and his wife are also committed to “maintaining the theater’s role as a charitable and community partner,” so they will also continue the annual CANS Film Fest to combat food insecurity in Franklin County, which will be held Dec. 4 this year. Any movie-goer with five or more cans of food to donate that day will receive free admission to the film of their choice.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, at 10 a.m., which will be followed by a free showing of the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That same morning, the Masses will run a fundraiser for the Discovery School at Four Corners at 9:30 by showing the Disney feature, “Frozen II.”

Gohl said he is proud that the Masses will continue the tradition of community engagement that he and Gobeille built for two decades.

“The Masses love the county and the movies,” Gohl said. “Isaac worked here as a projectionist a decade ago. ... We have been planning the succession of the business for a long time.”

Mass said he expects employees, all part-time, will remain on staff, and the couple will hire one or two seasonal employees, just as Gohl and Gobeille have done each year around the holidays. He said all gift cards will be accepted and previous bookings will continue as planned.

Mass said he recognizes the great work the current owners have done, literally saving the last movie theater in Franklin County.

In 2010, there was talk of moving the Garden Cinemas into the former bank building on Bank Row and converting the theater into a performing arts center. Gohl and Gobeille were in discussions with Greenfield Community College and other partners, but after months of negotiations, the project fell through.

In 2013, Gohl and Gobeille switched to digital projection, spending close to $100,000 to do so, and with another $348,000 from movie studios, were able to complete the project. Most recently, they had a new roof installed.

Then, last June, the two faced potential closure if they didn’t update the mechanical chairlift, which was not accessible to motorized wheelchairs, even though they had made multiple changes to comply with accessibility laws, including adding handrails and changing seating arrangements. The old chairlift had been installed in the early 1980s. They are currently working to complete that project, with the Architectural Access Board granting the theater until Jan. 15 to purchase and install a new chairlift.

“This is a new beginning for us,” Mass said. “‘Star Wars: New Beginning’ was released two weeks before Angela was born. Now, we will be showing ‘Star Wars Episode 9: Rise of Skywalker’ this Christmas.”

Mass said his wife has fond memories of the local theater, recounting how the first movie she saw there as a child was “Bambi.”

“We hope the community will come and support us this holiday season,” Angela Mass said. “We know that a Garden Cinemas gift card is Santa’s favorite stocking stuffer.”

Gohl and Gobeille said they will continue at the theater for several weeks to assist in the transition and are looking forward to the “sequel to the blockbuster feature we have lived for the last 20 years.”




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