Printed in the May 11, 2022 edition
By Apara Borrowes
The Grand Re-Opening of the Maynard Fine Arts Theatre and the Maynard Creamery is just around the corner with a showing of “Downton Abbey: A New Era” on May 20, the world premier date. The nostalgia this small historic theater offers, of stepping back into an earlier era, will be combined with an opportunity to train and employ people with special needs.
New owners Dafna Krouk-Gordon and Lester Gordon are long-time admirers and patrons of small independent movie theaters, including the Maynard Fine Arts Theatre (MFAT). They’ve worked intensely toward this grand opening since purchasing the theater in January. For them, the grand opening is “an invitation to step back into normal life.”
“We are counting on tremendous community support,” noted Gordon. “This will be a big social event for the community,” added Krouk-Gordon, “and we see this as a celebration.” Along with the movie, there will be refreshments for sale including local beer, wine, fresh-baked gourmet cookies, ice cream from The Creamery (next door) and the usual concession treats.
Steve Trumble, the former owner, renovated and revived the theater almost a decade ago, in honor of its long history, one that he remembered from his childhood. Saddened to learn of Trumble’s passing last year, Gordon began long months of research that culminated in buying the theater. Part of the grand opening will be the dedication of a plaque in the lobby to honor Trumble.
“We want to make the MFAT a ‘destination’ over time,” Krouk-Gordon said, “and first and foremost comes bringing the movies back.” Blockbuster movies will play in the largest theater, seating 320 people. The Gordons have contracted with Boston-based Balcony Booking to assure blockbuster movies get to the theater.
Family and kids’ movies will be shown in the 125-seat theater, and “artsy, foreign, intellectual films” in the 65-seat theater. MFAT will start operation with one showing at 7:00 PM, eventually showing three different movies at that time for the different audiences.
The owners’ combined professional skills will be at work on expanding what MFAT can offer. Gordon has a background in fundraising and special events for non-profits such as The Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and national health-care organizations. After being retired from a busy and successful career, Gordon was looking for a new project that offered meaningful work as well as fun. “We both love movies. We both love ice cream,” he said, “so what could be better than this theater?”
To further sweeten the deal, Krouk-Gordon’s human services agency will utilize the theater to train, employ, and prepare people with disabilities for work in a unique niche – the movie industry.
Krouk-Gordon is founder and and President of Toward Independent Living and Learning (TILL), which serves individuals with developmental disabilities. One of TILL’s objectives is career training. Part of the research the couple conducted before buying the MFAT included Prospector Theater, an independent movie house in Danbury, CT, which gave them a successful model and inspiration for training and employing people with disabilities. TILL’s commercial kitchens, which prepare clients to work in bakeries, will supply the theater with signature baked goods.
“We want to make the theater a regional cultural entertainment center,” said Gordon. Additional goals for the theater include: birthday parties; theater rental for other private/party/learning events; film festivals; corporate events; a movie group (like a book group); a speaker series about film, animation, and local independent film-makers; fundraisers for chosen causes; live music and stand-up comedy.
Just getting the theater operational has involved many issues: roof replacement, painting, electrical repairs, deciphering the theater’s computerized operating system and learning the operation of the digital projectors. “There were a few chinks in the links,” quipped Krouk-Gordon. To straighten things out, they’ve engaged the consulting help of Mark Gundstrum of Boston Light and Sound. “We couldn’t do this without Mark,” affirmed Krouk-Gordon.
“It’s been a treasure hunt to discover all the mysteries of how to operate this theater,” she continued. There is top-notch air filtration, and the MFAT website and FB page will be updated soon. The couple has obtained a coveted beer and wine license; brews will come from Amory’s Tomb, a new Maynard brewery, with wines from Atlantic Distributors.
Initial staffing has been easy, noted Max Naylor, General Manager. “There’s been a great deal of interest. We’ll have mostly young people, sibling following sibling to work here.” Naylor grew up seeing movies at the MFAT, worked there in high school, and was projectionist for the last owner. Krouk-Gordon added, “There’s a lot of community feeling here, a sense of legacy.”
Two preliminary events were held in April: showings of Oscars shorts, and “Maidan,” a documentary about the Ukrainian uprising of 2013-14.
“It’s been a lot of work,” concluded Gordon, “We didn’t realize all that would be involved. We had no idea. It’s incredible that we are about to open. It feels like a dream.”
The Grand Opening showing of “Downton Abbey: A New Era” will take place on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The Maynard Fine Arts Theatre is located at 19 Summer St. in Maynard. Masks are welcome, but not currently required.