Greenfield Garden Cinemas now fully accessible

  • The Garden Cinemas in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Co-owner Angela Mass in the new chairlift that was installed at the Garden Cinemas in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Isaac Mass, co-owner, stands behind the ticket counter at the Garden Cinemas in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2020 3:59:34 PM

GREENFIELD — The Garden Cinemas is once again accessible to all, and the new owners say they will now move ahead with buying the building at the end of the month.

After multiple delays, mostly related to the pandemic, the Garden’s new chairlift is ready to be used. The state inspector approved it earlier this month.

Late last year, former City Councilor Isaac Mass and his wife, Angela, bought the business but needed to wait to buy the building because of the work that needed to be done.

Former owners George Gohl and William Gobeille agreed to make the upgrades before selling, asking the state twice for extensions to get the work done to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When they owned the moviehouse, Gohl and Gobeille 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 chairlift was installed in the early 1980s.

According to Mass, the new, custom-made chairlift allows a weight limit of 750 pounds and is capable of handling motorized wheelchairs. Garaventa Lift New England did the work. Electrical work had to be done and walls needed to be moved in the process.

The chairlift’s installation makes five of the seven screening rooms fully accessible. The inaccessible theaters, six and seven, are situated on top of the former balcony of the 1929 movie palace, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The wonder of digital film is that with a little notice, it is easy to transfer any film playing in the balcony to an accessible location,” Mass noted.

In the days of 35mm film, theater staff used to have to carry massive films that had already been spliced together after arriving in multiple canisters if they wanted to move something.

“It required clamps, lots of upper body strength and balance,” Mass said. “One slip and you would lose the whole film.”

The cinemas closed in March because of the pandemic, but recently reopened, allowing 25 people in each theater at one time. Owners also recently announced they are serving beer and wine.

The Masses said they have been working on other accessibility improvements as well. In addition to the closed-caption readers and audio amplification devices in operation currently, the Garden has added noise-canceling headphones for those with auditory sensitivity.

“We love the Dolby 5.1 surround sound our system provides, but understand that some patrons with autism or other auditory sensitivity are not comfortable with that level of sound,” Angela Mass said. “Now we have a way for them to enjoy the movies.”

The chairlift was installed through a federal loan program administered by Greenfield’s Community and Economic Development Department. The project was required under the regulations of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.

Isaac Mass said now former owners Gohl and Gobeille will be able to obtain a certificate of good standing with the access board, meeting all the conditions for the new owners to purchase the historic Garden Block, which is scheduled for later in the month.

The Architectural Access Board has been working with Gohl and Gobeille since 2012. The board develops and enforces regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to and safe for people with disabilities. The city’s Commission on Disability Access has also been working with them.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.



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