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Coolidge Corner Theatre proposes adding a third big auditorium

If the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation gets its way, the historic theater in Brookline will soon get an addition, in the form of a new, 180-seat film auditorium. Instead of being able to show two movies in auditoriums at once, the Coolidge could show three.

The theatre opened in 1933 and has two large auditoriums that seat 440 and 220, respectively, and two small ones, used mostly for private or small screenings, that seat 45 and 13, respectively.

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“Very simply, as an art house theater, a nonprofit, we’re looking to take advantage of some additional space that we have access to, for expansion,” says Michael Maynard, chairman of the Theatre Foundation board. “We’d like to be able to show three movies in our main theaters at any one time going forward. We think that provides a nice service in Brookline.”

In addition to giving the theater another auditorium for major movie releases, it would allow the Coolidge to grow all of its programming, Maynard says.

“Having another large, good-sized theater inside the place gives us a chance to be a multicultural venue without cannibalizing our primary benefit to the community, of showing films,” Maynard says. “We do a lot of special programming here, from the ‘Sound of Silence,’ with silent films shown to live orchestral music, to programs for elders and Alzheimer’s patients, and even for fans of science fiction. It’s important to us to keep those up and add more. This frees up space.”

The board plans to ask Brookline Town Meeting members in May to help clear the way for the expansion, giving the theater a 2,530-square-foot portion of an easement behind the building that was given to the town in the 1960s by a previous owner. Vehicles would still be able to reach the parking lot behind the theater through the narrow alley off Harvard Street.

According to Maynard, the idea for the expansion was first raised by real estate developer Harold Brown, who purchased the building that houses the Coolidge in 1990 to prevent it from being demolished or turned into a shopping center.

Brown, who established the Hamilton Charitable Trust to act as landlord to the nonprofit theater, got the ball rolling by pointing out the obvious, Maynard says.

“He's been very helpful to us over the years,” Maynard says. “And in this case, he casually mentioned that there was this space that wasn’t being utilized, really, and wasn’t particularly attractive, on Harvard Street. And he suggested we look to expand.”

Maynard says he and fellow board members spent the better part of two years researching and preparing the expansion proposal, before he submitted it last Thursday.

James H. Burnett III can be reached at james.burnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesBurnett.
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