The Mill Wharf Cinema in Scituate Harbor may fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the building’s owner plans to replace the shuttered two-screen theater with four condominiums.
The theater is located inside the Mill Wharf Plaza condominium complex, at the waterfront site of the old Scituate Playhouse. Bret and Michelle Hardy, whose South Shore Cinemas also runs the Cameo Theater in Weymouth’s Columbian Square and the East Bridgewater Cinema, said the financial costs of the pandemic led directly to the condominium proposal.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to continue paying rent [in Scituate]: We closed last March 15th and have been unable to reopen since,” Bret Hardy said in an e-mail. “So, understandably, the landlord told us they would explore other options.”
Harbor Development LLC received permission from the town to replace the theater with four condominiums with a total of seven bedrooms, and 900 square feet of retail space. The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously on Feb. 25 to approve the project.
“It is a sad and sentimental situation for us, as we also ran the old Scituate Playhouse. We grew up locally and have enjoyed running the Mill Wharf Cinema for the past 10 years,” Hardy said.
Hardy said all three of his theaters closed in mid-March, but he was able to use a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to reopen in Weymouth and East Bridgewater from September through November. But he had to close again, he said, because of “minimal attendance, studios not releasing enough movies, and COVID restrictions.”
Hardy said he is keeping the movie equipment in place at the Scituate theater until he hears a final decision from the building owner. He said South Shore Cinemas intends to reopen the Weymouth and Bridgewater movie theaters “as soon as it becomes feasible.”
“We are looking forward to the end of the pandemic so that people can enjoy movies together again as a community,” he said. “We truly miss and appreciate the loyal customers that support our family-owned business.”
The Scituate Playhouse was built on the harbor in the late 1930s with seating for 778 and hand-painted murals on the walls, according to a town history. The building was demolished in 2003 and replaced by the condominium complex and smaller movie theater, which was originally operated by Patriot Cinemas.
The Hardys and South Shore Cinemas took over in 2011, although Brett Hardy said he kept his job in marketing. He had run the old Scituate Playhouse for two years and managed the Cameo while in college. He and his wife met as teenagers when he was an usher at Patriot Cinemas’ Pembroke theater, he said.
The number of small movie houses has fallen dramatically in the past decade, statistics show, and the industry has been hit hard by the pandemic-related restrictions.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.