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Cine 4 in New Haven Closes, Early Childhood Education Center in Plans

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The lights at the decades-old independent movie theater on Middletown Avenue have gone out, and all the popcorn is gone. The new non-profit owner aims to transform it into a bustling campus for affordable early childhood education.

These are the latest developments of the Cine 4 cinema located at 371 Middletown Ave/25 Flint Street in Quinnipiac Meadows near the border with North Haven. The theater showed its final film last week. Harris goes to Paris” and “Elvis”.

On August 5, the Friends Center for Children Inc. purchased a 1.93-acre parking lot and movie theater lot from Soffer Associates for $1.3 million, according to the city’s online land records database. The city last valued the property at $1,070,900.

The property’s new owners – a Fair Haven Heights-based, Quaker-influenced early childhood education program – have converted the former movie theater grounds into offices, classrooms, a library, and an outdoor space for young children and childcare providers. We are planning to turn it into a playground. They also plan to preserve his one of the theater’s four screening rooms as a community space for watching movies.

Meanwhile, the closure and sale of Ciné 4 will end the independent theater’s 50-year run as one of the last remaining cinemas in town.

The four-screen independent cinema opened in 1971.

Theater survived the transition from film to digital. After reopening after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and seeing every other non-university cinema in town, with the exception of Temple Street’s Criterion Cinema, it closed as a suburban cineplex, and then at home. streaming service. Beyond industry. Now it’s packed too.

“Everything has a beginning and an end,” Stu Soffer, co-owner of the second-generation Ciné 4, told The Independent in a brief phone interview on Wednesday, devoid of terse sentimentality. “That’s it.”

He said the movie theater property had been “on the market for a long time.”

He applauded the new owner of the facility, a nonprofit run by local early childhood education advocate Alix Schiavone, for her plans to breathe new life into the place.

“Alix is ​​a very nice person,” he said. “Very knowledgeable. Super bright. She’s a good lady and knows what she’s doing.” Read reporter Randy Beach’s coverage of Cine 4’s reopening during the pandemic and Sofer and his family’s decades-long history of running a local movie theater.)

yes. Now that Cine 4 is gone, what’s next to 371 Middletown Avenue?

In a Wednesday afternoon telephone interview with The Independent, Alix Schiavone, executive director of Friends Center for Children, said the former movie theater grounds have been transformed into a place of education, learning and play for young children and their families. She detailed her nonprofit’s ambitious plans to turn it into a vibrant hub for

Schiavone’s Quaker-influenced early childhood education program now operates off East Grand Avenue and Blake Street.

Provides 50 weeks of full-day childcare annually to a racially and economically diverse group of young children ages 3 months to 5 years, free housing for teachers, and a sliding scale for participating families. We offer tuition.

“The early care education industry is in crisis,” Schiavone told The Independent.,war “It is a sector in our community that is underfunded. It is marginalized.… Friends Center is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that children, families and educators thrive in our toddler, toddler and preschool learning community. ”

She said her organization was ,war “a huge supply and demand problem with many New Havens looking for more affordable early childhood education and childcare options than those currently available”. To meaningfully raise wages in an industry that consistently undervalues ​​its jobs, it needs to reach a certain scale so that it can earn income from ,war“ sliding-scale tuition. Please raise my salary.”

In that sense, she said, the Friends Center is about to expand significantly across the city.

In addition to the current childcare centers on East Grand Avenue and Blake Street, the future Dixwell Plaza redevelopment to be built by ConnCORP plans to open a third site. A fourth childcare center will then be built at Friends Center’s newly acquired Cine 4 cinema on Middletown Avenue.

Over the next five years, the group, which currently serves 122 children and employs 39 staff, will grow to 360 by June 2027, according to the Friends Center growth Schiavone shared with the Independent. It plans to expand to serve 118 children and employ 118 staff.

What exactly does the Friends Center envision on the site of a former movie theater on Middletown Avenue/Flint Street?

Schiavone said her organization is still in the very early stages of developing the project. She said she plans to meet with the architect next week about this place.

Nonetheless, the current vision is to transform the cinema building into centralized administrative and academic offices for the Friends Center, Teaching Materials Library, Food Service Kitchen, and Teacher Training Center.

The office will be occupied by the organization’s seven program managers, she said. will be

Regarding Cine 4’s existing four movie screens, Schiavone said: ,war “we intend to keep it as a community space so that we can show movies to the community on weekends” and generally use that room as a ,war “presentation space.”

As for the sea of ​​asphalt parking lots that now surround the former movie theater building, she says it will be more of a “green space for outdoor playgrounds” and more on campus for a planned new childcare center. It turns into an aesthetically pleasing outdoor part.

She added that the Friends Center is currently in the process of raising funds and applying for grants to cover the cost of renovating the existing cinema building.

The five-year growth plan Schiavone shared with Independent underscores how urgent the need is for the kinds of services Friends Center hopes to continue to offer on a larger scale.

“New Haven is a parenting desert,” the plan reads. ,war “For every 10 families in New Haven looking for infant and toddler care, there are only two spaces available. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, a family in New Haven with one infant must have an annual income of $315,000 for child care to be considered affordable. The median income is $41,000.”

“Expansion over the next five years,” and that plan continues, ,war “will drive us to increase equity while simultaneously thinking about communities and systems.”

Schiavone, who grew up just outside New Haven, says he’s been to Cine countless times over the years. , war “I grew up going to the cinema. My sister had her first kiss in that theater,” she said. ‘Everyone I’ve spoken to has something to do with the place.’

Decades later, she even has a bit of her hometown theater history in her current home, she said.

“This is a space that means a lot,” said Schiavone. ,war “There’s a lot of positive energy” in this former movie theater. We want to bring that energy to a new chapter in the property’s history.