Cape Cinema: A One of a Kind Experience

Hi-Def, IMAX, surround sound, stadium seating. Today’s movie theaters are definitely up with the times when it comes to technology.

But sometimes nothing beats seeing a film in a very basic, historic theater for a perfect atmosphere.

For those wishing to partake in such a trip down memory lane there is the Cape Cinema on Route 6A in Dennis.

Nestled away from the road on a 26-acre parcel of land the cinema is part of the Cape Center For the Arts that includes the Cape Playhouse and the Cape Museum of Art.

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis.

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis.

The cinema was built in 1930 with a design modeled after the Congregational Church on Main Street in Centerville.

Eric Hart, the owner of the cinema business but not the building, has a three decades long relationship with the cinema going back to when he worked for the previous owners.

Born and raised in Brewster, Hart spent summers working at the cinema when his teaching job would end for the school year.

He took over the business and for the past 29 years has been the face of Cape Cinema as well as its greatest ambassador.

The cinema has 317 seats and in addition to showing movies there is stage used for occasional musical performances.

The mural on the ceiling of the Cape Cinema was painted in the 1930s by Rockwell Kent.

The mural on the ceiling of the Cape Cinema was painted in the 1930s by Rockwell Kent.

“Its historical significance and programming make it unique,” Hart said. The theater has just one main screen. The main lobby is decorated with posters of some of the most famous films to have played there as well as current choices.

I remembered seeing the Blair Witch Project at the cinema in 1999 at a particularly late showing. Hart explained this to me. When Blair Witch was released Hart thought of it as a challenge to make more money than other local theaters on the film.

Being a single showing theater, Hart added midnight showings of the movie which helped him succeed in topping the sales of the other nearby theaters.

The highest grossing movie at the cinema in recent years is a documentary.

The stage of Cape Cinema as seen by the audience.

The stage of Cape Cinema as seen by the audience.

“Surprisingly,” Hart said, “it was Fahrenheit 9/11 the Michael Moore documentary.” He did add however that last year’s Judy Dench film Philomena came close to rivaling that performance.

It is best to get to the theater early to see the star of the show.On the ceiling is a mural painted in 1930 by famed American painter and illustrator Rockwell Kent. The 6,400 square-foot mural is said to be Kent’s colorful vision of heaven with comets, galaxies, and constellations.

The mural is part of what makes the ambience of the cinema just as much of an attraction as the films themselves.

Hart gave his opinion on what has been the secret to the success of the Cape Cinema for over 80 years.

“It is a true ‘community’ theater,” Hart said. “This place is generously supported by the community. The summer helps business, of course, but it is the locals which help it thrive even in the off-season.”

The cinema is open year-round and in addition to film and musical acts there is also the transmissions of the Metropolitan Opera performances to the cinema–ten in all this season.

This historic spot is a perfect way to enjoy a movie while also getting whisked back to a simpler time in America.

If You Go: Cape Cinema – 35 Hope Lane, Dennis.

Chris Setterlund, who lives in Yarmouth, is a lifelong Cape Codder and the author ofIn My Footsteps, a guide to historical sites on Cape Cod.
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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