The co-owner of the Studio Cinema, the historic landmark in Belmont’s Central Square, said it was “unlikely” the town’s nearly century-old movie theater will be in the business of showing films if current tensions with town departments can not be resolved.
“I am trying very hard to reopen it but, as of now, it’s only about a 10 percent chance that that will happen,” James “Jim” Bramante – who is co-owner of the Studio with his brother, David – told the Belmontonian.
The Bramante brothers also own the popular multi-screen West Newton Cinema in Newton.
The Studio, at 376 Trapelo Rd., has been shut for the past two weeks and its website only informing residents and movie goers that the theater “is closed for technical problems until further notice please keep in touch.”
Those technical issues, according to Bramante, regard town regulations involving several departments including those related to the fire department’s annual inspection of the building.
Bramante would not go into details about the specific issues, only to say that town officials appear unwilling to give the operation “grandfather” status from new town regulations.
“I have real concerns that I can fulfill the obligations the town requires me to do and remain a viable business,” said Bramante.
Town officials are playing their cards close to the vest, only indicating that all departments are working collectively to resolve any remaining issues to allow the operation to open for business.
In fact, Bramante did apply to the Belmont Town Clerk’s Office last year for a business license to run a theater at the existing location.
But Bramante, who bought the theater in Belmont and West Newton with his brother 30 years ago due to their love of movies, said it all comes down to the money needed to make the repairs and upgrades.
“It always comes down to cost,” he said. “We try hard to make this a success, but it has always been an uphill battle,” said Bramante.
The theater is one of the rare remaining venues that was built to show silent films that has remained a single-screen operation in New England and the US. The building opened in 1919 as The Strand at the corner of Trapelo Road and Beech Street as the area surrounding Central Square was being developed into residential housing.
At the height of its popularity in 1941, the theater – with its new name the Studio – had 700 seats and was operated by the national chain, Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.
Bramante said he and his brother have not envisioned another use for the property – he said the building “is beautifully situated to remain a theater.”
“Right now we are working to find a reasonable solution but that’s hard to see coming,” he said.