Catch a Movie in This Stylish Theater With a Special Mission

The Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, Conn., is way more than a movie theater with a hip, modern design.

Street View Prospector Theater

Street View Prospector Theater

The Prospector Theater features a modern glass addition with wood and copper details. The front historic façade was recreated, transforming the building from traditional to contemporary, introducing expanses of glass and wood for a seamless transition with a warm, inviting feel.

Photo by: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

With The Oscars quickly approaching, now is the time to hit the movie theater to catch up on the best flicks of the year. Movie theaters aren't exactly celebrated for their interior designs, but the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, Conn., might just spark a new trend.

The team at Doyle Coffin Architecture helped recondition the dilapidated building that opened in 1940 as the Ridgefield Playhouse and spent time as a bank before falling into disrepair. His client, Valerie Jensen, had more in mind for the Prospect Theater than just a drab building in which to show films.

Prospector Theater Screen One

Prospector Theater Screen One

This theater is the largest of the four screens with seating for 170 people.The perforated metal screens on the walls provide the required acoustics for watching movies and the faux walnut panels on the ceiling create an elegant coffered design.

Photo by: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jensen's vision was to create a not-for-profit commercial theater with a mission of training and employing adults with developmental disabilities. Employees — known as "Prospects" — select an area of interest like technology or retail, receive training in that area and put their skills to practice with a job at the theater with the goal of preparing them for other jobs in the Ridgefield community.

Jensen wanted the inside of the Prospector to match the vibrancy of its mission. After the Doyle Coffin team restored the facade and reconstructed the rest of the building, including a new glass-clad entry on the east side of the building, they went to work infusing color, style and meaning to the interior.

Prospector Theater Lobby

Prospector Theater Lobby

This dynamic space also provides a wide spectrum of uses. The lobby is an extension of the street, drawing patrons in and offering casual seating with a screen above for viewing previews and promotions. A ceiling representing the traditional sidewalk marquee marks the entrance to the theaters.

Photo by: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

The exterior brick was continued into the lobby to create the impression of a streetscape with the theater's ticket booth, cafe, restaurant and bar appearing to be storefronts. A marquee hangs over the entrance to the theater spaces as part of the streetscape look.

Each of the four theaters inside has a unique ceiling treatment, lighting scheme and layout. The crown jewel, Theater Three, is filled with Eames chairs and drum poufs from Design Within Reach and is topped with a blue ceiling lit by LED "starlights."

Prospector Theater Screen Three

Prospector Theater Screen Three

Theater Three of the Prospector Theater was designed to make patrons feel as though they were watching a movie from a rooftop under the stars. Comfortable lounge chairs provide the ultimate movie watching experience while also providing maximum flexibility for the space.This multi-functional theater has 55 fixed stadium seats and an open floor providing flexibility of seating types and layouts. It features movable walls that open into an alcove overlooking the courtyard. This theater space can host a variety of social events.

Photo by: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

The Doyle Coffin team also infused the design with nods to its history and its new mission. A fireplace in the Star Bar incorporates found objects with Special Olympics medals won and donated by the Prospector employees. The artwork is designed to teach and encourage people with spectrum disorders to initiate and engage others in conversations about it.

Prospector Theater Star Bar Mosaic Fireplace Focal Point

Prospector Theater Star Bar Mosaic Fireplace Focal Point

The fireplace mosaic is a focal point at the Prospector Theater Star Bar. It was designed around the theme of "infinite possibility" and incorporates dozens of Special Olympic medals that had been donated by athletes. The artists used the medals to represent stars - a literal nod to Hollywood, as well as a figurative reference to the theater's mission.

Photo by: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

The ceiling in the theater's Heads Up Cafe is adorned with 33,712 pennies to honor its 40-year history as a bank. The Prospectors assembled the coins into "penny panels" that were then installed on the ceiling, giving them their own role in the building's construction.

Hanging from the lobby ceiling is the "Prospectolier," a 1,500-pound chandelier. Jensen and artist Warren Muller visited flea markets to find items to incorporate into Muller's lighting design.

Photo by: Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

"The goal of the theater shares the same goal as the chandelier: to take discarded objects that appear inadequate and impractical and create something that is dynamic, beautiful and functional, showcasing each element’s true potential," the Doyle Coffin Architecture team says.

"In the case of the Prospector Theater, this means to showcase the talents of their employees, to see beyond their disability and recognize them as beautiful, hardworking and determined individuals who can make significant contributions to society and their respective communities," they say.

Thanks for the tour, Doyle Coffin Architecture!

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