Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cape Cinema - Dennis, Mass.

Unlike some of the old movie houses we’ve featured, the Cape Cinema in Dennis, Massachusetts is still an operating, vibrant theater, and has its own website (see here).

Raymond Moore, who founded the Cape Playhouse in 1927 (see this post on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog), three years later established this movie theater across the way in June 1930. Here we have the movie listings for the month of August 1935, and the month of August in 1940.

Architect Alfred Easton Poor modeled its facade on the Congregational Church in Centerville, Massachusetts, but its Art Deco interior was modern, with 300 arm chairs of black lacquer, with tangerine suede seats and a huge mural by Rockwell Kent across the curved ceiling, claimed at the time to be the largest single mural in the world.

According to the website, Scenic artist Jo Mielziner installed the mural “since Kent had vowed never to have anything to do with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts after what he felt was ‘the murder of Sacco and Vanzetti’ in 1927, although Kent did attend the opening of the cinema and was photographed signing the mural.”

It shows the sky in shades of blue, gold and orange. The Milky Way, comets, galaxies and constellations, pairs of embracing lovers and free-flying individuals. On the stage Moore had a curtain installed which opened and closed like a Japanese screen. Kent decorated it with a gold painted sun with wavy rays, and rays emanating from the projection booth representing the rays of the moon.

In his lifetime Kent did only five murals of which three are still in existence: two for government buildings in Washington (the Post Office and the Marine Bureau of Fisheries) and this movie theater on Cape Cod.

The Raymond Moore Foundation today owns both the Playhouse and the Cinema, and restored the mural in 1981. The movie theater also now include a modern concession stand which features gourmet food items as well typical movie snacks, a heating and air conditioning system and Dolby® Digital surround sound.


John Hayes said...

Now that sounds like a moviehouse worth going to see. From what I can see of the mural at their website it looks as spectacular as your description suggests. The exterior is really intriguing, too--definitely not your typical moviehouse architecture; very much church-like, which is itself pretty interesting.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, John. That's what I find interesting about looking at all these old movie houses, so different. Some have the big city Art Deco neon, some have the Southwest Spanish influence, some serving different uses today. The Cape Cinema is very "Cape"-ish, and the interior something else entirely. There is such creativity to be found in the architechture of old movie houses. The modern cineplexes are nothing to them.

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