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.

Brick Commercial Building with Large Windows in the Evening

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.

Theater Seating with Walnut Panel Ceilings

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.

People in a Lobby Area of a Theater

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."

Theater with Faux Sky Ceiling and Large Lounge Chairs

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.

Blue Mosaic Fireplace in a Bar with Wood Beams

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!

See More of the Theater

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Next Up

Tour This Classically-Chic Chef's Kitchen

Designer Tatiana Machado-Rosas skillfully blends form with function in this timelessly on-trend black, white and gold open-concept kitchen.

One-of-a-Kind Movie Theater

Doyle Coffin Architecture redesigned the historic Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, Conn., to house four movie theater screens, a cafe and a street-like marquee area. The eye-catching design boasts skylights, a copper penny ceiling and specialty lighting throughout.

Los Angeles Apartment Marries Feminine, Masculine Styles

Wanting a home that she and her husband both adored, designer Jessica McClendon outfitted her 1950s unit with a mix of elegantly vintage and boldly modern pieces. The result is an eclectic design that's easy on the eyes.

Whimsical NYC Bachelor Pad Inspired By Pop Art Collection

See how designer Joe Human took cues from his client's custom pop art collection to transform a stark white condo near Washington Square Park into a colorful, wildly whimsical bachelor pad with eclectic elements.

From Wicker Nightmare to Colorful Outdoor Space

Designer Deborah Bettcher transforms a dreary, rundown sun room into a colorful oasis full of charming details.

Feminine Master Suite Makeover

Designers Jackie Bayer and Sadie Sanchez of Emerald Hill Interiors created a one-of-a-kind master suite for a homeowner who loves all things feminine, romantic and covered in jewels.

Modern Mountain Getaway

Designer Alison Damonte turned this mountain hideaway into a modern retreat, complete with stylish bunk beds and pet friendly furniture.

Eclectic Black and Yellow Guest Room

Designer Ashley DeLapp used creative furniture choices and funky patterns to maximize space and make over this guest bedroom retreat.

Designer-Inspired Master Bedroom

Designer Ashley DeLapp created this eclectic master bedroom space based on inspiration from the client's favorite designer purse.

Robin's-Egg-Blue Kitchen Makeover

Designer Bonnie Pressley creates a serene and colorful kitchen with an interesting mix of rustic and elegant accents.

Meet the Team

Get to know the talented writers and editors of HGTV's show and design blog. 

Go Behind the Blog

From the Archives

Take a look back at our past posts, from entertaining and design trends to up-and-coming HGTV shows.  

Read All Our Past Posts

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.