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A company that was planning to invest in the Triplex Cinema is short on cash. If the money isn't raised, the theater could close

exterior of triplex cinema (copy)

Owner Richard Stanley says that without Cinema Lab's overhaul, the Triplex Cinema will likely have to close in June. He has no other interested buyers.

GREAT BARRINGTON — A company that transforms old, small-town movie theaters into more varied entertainment venues is short on the funds it needs to overhaul the Triplex Cinema.

Cinema Lab representatives say they’ve only raised about half of the $1.2 million it needs to seal the deal. So the company and Triplex owner Richard Stanley are looking to the community — and likely the town — to find a way to raise the rest of it.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher, Stanley says. If the money isn’t raised by early June, the downtown theater at risk of closing, leaving the town with a large void — physically and culturally.

“The reality is, if this deal doesn’t happen, The Triplex is going to close forever,” Stanley said.

It would only affect the Triplex, he said, and not other retail and offices in the building — which he would continue to own until Cinema Lab is ready to buy it.

Stanley said that until now, he hasn’t been blunt enough about the risk of losing the cinema, and that this might have affected fundraising for the project.

“We may have done ourselves a disservice by keeping the process underground, and not keeping things in perspective as to what’s at stake,” he said.

Luke Parker Bowles (copy)

Luke Parker Bowles, left, with Cinema Lab CFO Andy Childs, center and CEO Brandon Jones. The company's plan to overhaul Triplex Cinema is short on funds.

Stanley and Andy Childs, Cinema Lab’s chief financial officer, said they had looked to deep-pocketed investors but didn’t make a wider plea for help. “Maybe we overlooked the man on the street,” Stanley said.

Now, he’s hoping interested investors will contact the the company by email.

The Triplex has been an important place for residents, “rich or poor,” Stanley said. “It’s the heart space of the community,” Stanley said.

But movie theaters, Stanley’s included, are struggling. Streaming film services like Netflix are making them somewhat obsolete, and the pandemic only accelerated this trend. Stanley also said Hollywood marketing focuses too much on movies and less on the experience.

The pandemic may be part of the reason why the North Adams Movieplex 8 closed in January, though the owner did not say why. Regal Cinemas at The Berkshire Mall also permanently closed last year after hanging on despite the mall’s closing in 2019. Regal announced in January of this year that the pandemic pushed it to close 39 more theaters

The Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield, which Stanley used to own, said early last year that it was flourishing, however.

Richard Stanley at Triplex Cinema

Richard Stanley was one of the founders of the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington in 1995.


Cinema Lab’s plan is to make the Triplex site more of a gathering hub and varied entertainment venue than just a movie theater. They plan an interior and facade renovation, new seating, opening up the wall into the retail next door for a bar and space for live music and events.

It would be called “The Great.”

The work is expected to cost between $1.5 and $1.7 million. And Cinema Lab’s plan is to start running the business and lease the building from Stanley before it eventually buys it from him.

With no other interest from potential buyers, Stanley fears that the failure of this deal could result in a vacant building. So he says he’s willing to do what it takes to help Cinema Lab.

“I’m willing to invest in the new endeavor to make sure it’s successful,” Stanley said.

It was November when Cinema Lab indicated publicly it was serious about renovating and eventually acquiring the Triplex. The group runs several theaters in New Jersey, one in Canon City, Colo. and is working on a theater project in New Canaan, Conn.

CEO Luke Parker Bowles — the nephew of Queen’s Consort Camilla Parker Bowles — had even mentioned it on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Plans began to crystalize, and the group began courting investors. At the time Cinema Lab needed $1 million in verbal commitments by the end of 2022.

That didn’t happen. Now comes the specter of the Triplex’s demise, according to Stanley.

Berkshire International Film Festival's Kelley Vickery discusses difficult decision to postpone event

Kelley Vickery, founder and artistic director of the Berkshire International Film Festival, worries that if the Triplex Cinema closes, it will leave "a black hole in the middle of town."

Kelley Vickery, executive director of the Berkshire International Film Festival, said the annual festival — scheduled from June 1-4 — relies on the Triplex for screenings. She said Cinema Lab’s new vision for the downtown cinema is “dynamic.”

“They can go anywhere and they’re choosing our town to take this model create something really exciting,” she said, adding that if the company can’t make this work, it will close after the film festival this year and be “a black hole in the middle of town.”

Robin Helfand, owner of Robin’s Candy Shop on Main Street, says the Triplex is one of the key businesses that make downtown tick and draw people in. So important is it to other business owners that they are investing in the Cinema Lab project and having discussions about how to help make it happen.

Those include makeup company founder, Jane Iredale, Helfand said.

“If The Triplex were to close it would really disrupt the ecosystem of the community,” Helfand said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.

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