Former Beacon Manager John Valente and Councilor John Krol discuss the partnership between the city and the theater.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — On Nov. 20, 2009, Eugene Mamut of Lee leaned back in the deep plush red seats the day the Beacon Cinema opened, and said, "I don't want to get up."
The $23 million project to bring an independently-owned movie theater had taken years to finally come to fruition. Former Mayor James Ruberto had the crowd celebrating the opening chant his favorite saying, "it is a great day for Pittsfield."
But it was the new stadium seating that was the talk of the town. Since then, things have changed in the movie theater industry. Those seats are now considered outdated.
"Everybody kept saying how comfortable they were, how fantastic these seats were. Well, you know, nothing is more constant than change," former Beacon Manager John Valente said on Friday.
"Just as digital standard for a modern movie theater, audiences have shown a clear preference for big comfy recliners and reserved seating."
As times change, the Beacon Cinema is looking to stay right with it. On Friday, the downtown theater showed off its new recliner seats, which cut the number of seats it has about in half. The theater has now revamped the seating in all six of its theaters and implemented reserved seating.
But one thing the former manager says hasn't changed is the foundation on which the Beacon was built.
It was back in 1997 when city officials determined that a downtown movie theater would become a vital piece in the puzzle to bring people back downtown. After seven years of work, eventually Richard Stanley agreed to develop it. It became a piece, tied with fellow anchors Barrington Stage and the Colonial Theatre, of what became a decadelong effort to revitalize North Street. By 2015, the company had spent more than $20.2 million on the project and created 39 total jobs.
"It was a true relationship between the private sector and the city that made this happen, a true partnership," said City Council Vice President John Krol. "It was the Beacon Cinema that was the centerpiece of that to bring families downtown."
The Beacon is lowering its prices at a time when the industry is going the other way.
Since then, millions of private sector dollars have been invested on North Street. A number of new restaurants and shops have opened. The state helped fund a massive streetscape project.
Mayor Linda Tyer said she knows the efforts worked because now there is an array of market-rate housing developments happening, showing that people now want to live downtown, not just visit.
Tyer actually still keeps a chunk of brick from the movie theater's facade, a gift from Ruberto, in her office.
"I keep that on my bookshelf as a symbol of what renaissance is and how we have to keep moving forward, just as we've done on North Street, in other parts of our city," Tyer said.
But over those years, the Beacon began to struggle to keep up with the changing industry. That wasn't going to deter Stanley and staff. The company planned a half-million turnaround plan, which included the new reclining seats. But, the finances behind that new money going to the venture still didn't match up.
Last May, Stanley asked the City Council for an extension of the Beacon's tax incremental financing package and the council agreed. The agreement puts off taxing the value of the new investment for another five years. In total, about $72,000 worth of tax money will be forgiven during that time in order to allow the new investment to move forward.
"This council and this mayor worked together to make sure we are able to support the Beacon Cinema make this happen," Krol said.
Those from the Beacon recognize that role as being a community partner. So while the seats are an effort to keep up with the changing times, the Beacon isn't going to stay with the pricing trends. On Friday, Manager Lydia Shulman announced a reduction in many of the ticket prices.
"Most theaters are going the other way. They are raising their prices when they put these seats in. Theaters near Boston are $25, $30 for a ticket. I remember the days when you could walk down the street and spend $4.50 to see a movie. Movies used to be accessible entertainment. It was affordable. And it has been moving away from that. This is our opportunity to bring that back," Shulman said.
As of Friday, prices for a 2D movie or a 3D matinee will be $6; evenings for children and seniors will be $6 and for adults, $8.75; and 3D evenings will be $11.75 for adults and $9 for children and seniors.
"This project started because we really wanted to do something to make downtown Pittsfield go and we've never lost that commitment," Valente said.
Eight years ago, the cinema cut a strand of the 35-millimeter film, a symbol of the cinema ridding rid of the old style films and moving to all digital. And on Friday, a ribbon was cut on the newly revamped seats, positioning an anchor of North Street to survive for years to come.
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Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."
Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.
In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.
The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."
But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."
A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.
The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."
Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.
By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.
Sutton led an itinerant childhood under the thumb of his alcoholic, abusive biological father. After shuttling between Massachusetts and the state of Florida, he was barely able to make it to the 11th grade before quitting in the first week. click for more