HISTORY AND MISSION
To inspire, inform and entertain through the universal language of cinema arts and to serve as a cultural and educational resource for all.
1879 – 1925: An unlikely beginning
The historic Amherst Cinema Building dates back to 1879, when a livery was erected on the site of the former Amherst Academy. Replacing the academy, whose roster of students included poet Emily Dickinson, Mary Lyon (founder of Mount Holyoke College), and Sylvester Graham (inventor of the graham cracker), the livery was used to stable horses, and later to sell and rent motor cars.
1926 – 1954: Theater comes alive
After a major downtown fire in 1926, the livery building was sold and redesigned as a theater. This renovated structure featured a two-story street-front façade and a new brick extension in the rear which created space for an orchestra pit and a small stage. The newly christened Amherst Theater screened movies and hosted occasional stage performances.
1955 – 1999: A long run, then lights out
In 1955, the theater was sold to Samuel Goldstein and renamed Amherst Cinema. Although it stayed open through the 1990s, a lack of basic maintenance eventually allowed the building to deteriorate. Near the end of its operation, which spanned nearly half a century, moviegoers braved the surroundings of the unheated theater enjoying films while bundled in blankets and comforters during the winter months. The owners failed to pay property taxes on time for several years, and the building was closed periodically due to safety and health code violations. In 1999, the theater closed permanently after screening its last film, 200 Cigarettes.
2000 – 2005: A sustained vision
In 2000, a group of local film buffs and arts lovers formed the nonprofit Amherst Cinema entity to save the historic structure from the auction block. With substantial help from hundreds of individuals, institutions and businesses, the group raised funds and developed plans for a cinema center.
2006: A new beginning
With help from hundreds of supporters, we raised nearly $3,000,000 for the Amherst Cinema’s home.
In May 2006, our nonprofit organization broke ground to build a new, state-of-the-art, three-screen cinema. The Amherst Cinema opened November 22, 2006.
We count on you to replenish our Annual Fund!
Because of our commitment to the best in film and educational programming, not all of our endeavors are self-sustaining. As with other arts organizations, ticket revenues cover only part of our costs. We depend on our wonderful Members and supporters to sustain our programming, with gifts to our Annual Fund and through memberships.
Your gift really makes a difference! To contribute securely online, click here.