The next time you’re in the mood to catch a movie but not at all in the mood to schlep to some far-flung, charmless multi-plex, venture a mere two miles down the road from Wellesley Square and give The Center for Arts in Natick (TCAN) a try.
TCAN, located at 14 Summer St., Natick in a beautifully renovated historic firehouse, is well-known for its concerts and live-theater offerings. Somehow, though, the venue’s second-floor movie theater is something of a secret. Even my Bunco group, made up of Natick moms I’ve been hanging out with since my 11-year stint in the town, didn’t know that hiding in plain sight in their own town center is nestled the quintessential independent theater. There, in a former storage space of the former firehouse, the 120-seat theater shows everything from small-run indies to more mainstream fare such as Disney’s Aladdin.
David Lavalley, executive director of TCAN, brought the art-house-type cinema to life through a $180,000 grant awarded from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s facilities fund to the arts center in 2014. The grant, plus additional money raised, allowed TCAN to transform underutilized space that just happened to already have great acoustics (although soundproofing was added) and soaring ceilings into a multi-use performance space, with an emphasis on cinema. According to Nicola Anderson, Cinema Program Director, no effort was spared in ensuring a quality movie-going experience. She says, “The newly installed Screening Room at TCAN has been renovated to the highest of technical standards with a 2K (DCI Compliant) digital cinema projector and full 7.1 Dolby surround audio . Wherever possible the films are projected from a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) – 2K digital prints that are mastered to the highest industry standard to ensure the visuals stay perfect and the audio is crystal clear throughout the presentation.”
In addition, comfortable, movable seats allow the space to also host concerts, conferences and other activities. In fact, in a recent collaboration with Babson Arts, the space was used during some rehearsals for An American Hamlet. It seems the actors needed room to practice their fight scenes.
On a recent date night we settled into the comfortable red chairs to watch A Man Called Ove on the 20-foot screen. The crowd was clearly into the experience of it all, the way the theater is tucked away upstairs (TCAN is handicapped accessible, and the movie theater can be accessed by elevator), the fun of being able to walk to a number of nearby restaurants either before or after the show, the sheer non-stickiness of the floors. That last one was big for me. Not that TCAN is stingy with the snacks, they’re just scrupulously tidy, that’s all. Popcorn, candy, and beverages, including beer or wine, are for sale.
About the chairs, just a heads up, don’t expect the Craftmatic bed treatment at this theater. I don’t know about you, but that suits me fine. Once, at one of those Craftmatic bed multiplexes, I couldn’t even enjoy the movie because the man lying next to me, who was not my husband, fell asleep. As you can imagine, I became very uneasy, wondering if I was dangerously close to infidelity. Fretfully, I wondered if it counted as cheating. First I figured yes it did, because there was nothing but an armrest between us to suggest our two “chairs” were anything less than a double bed, and there he was, sleeping. Therefore, logic demanded that it must be a bed, ergo we were sharing a bed, ergo ergo it was an infidelity.
Then I figured no, it wasn’t an infidelity, because don’t be ridiculous.
Of course after all these Socratic mental gymnastics, I was drained and didn’t enjoy the movie at all. Plus, the sleeping man wasn’t even hot, so what a waste of moral philosophizing, and of a movie ticket.
Save yourself from such problems and catch your next movie at TCAN. On the April schedule: Aladdin; The Wizard of Oz; Lamb (screening and talkback with with Director Yared Zeleke); I Am Not Your Negro. Ticket prices are generally $12 for the public, $10 for TCAN members, and $9 for children under 12.