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Bridgeport Mayor Says It's Showtime Again For Historic Downtown Theaters

City leaders gather under a new marquee for the shuttered Majestic Theater in Bridgeport.
City leaders gather under a new marquee for the shuttered Majestic Theater in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim discusses plans to renovate the Majestic and Poli theaters downtown.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim discusses plans to renovate the Majestic and Poli theaters downtown. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
An artist's rendering of the proposed rehabilitation of the Majestic and Poli theaters
An artist's rendering of the proposed rehabilitation of the Majestic and Poli theaters Photo Credit: Contributed
City leaders tour the Majestic Theater, which still retains its massive organ pipes.
City leaders tour the Majestic Theater, which still retains its massive organ pipes. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The ceiling of the Majestic Theater's lobby retains much of its original grandeur.
The ceiling of the Majestic Theater's lobby retains much of its original grandeur. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The stairway to the mezzanine at the Majestic Theater in Bridgeport
The stairway to the mezzanine at the Majestic Theater in Bridgeport Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The old concession stand at the Majestic Theater is tucked near the stairs to the mezzanine.
The old concession stand at the Majestic Theater is tucked near the stairs to the mezzanine. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The balcony at the Majestic Theater in Bridgeport
The balcony at the Majestic Theater in Bridgeport Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The Poli Theater in downtown Bridgeport now houses sets and props from the Downtown Cabaret Theater.
The Poli Theater in downtown Bridgeport now houses sets and props from the Downtown Cabaret Theater. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The Poli Theater is now home to many props from the Downtown Cabaret Theater in Bridgeport.
The Poli Theater is now home to many props from the Downtown Cabaret Theater in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — An undisclosed developer will renovate and reopen the historic Majestic Theater, create a 200-room hotel at the former Poli Theater and build two high-rise apartment complexes across the street — to the tune of more than $100 million, Mayor Joe Ganim announced Monday.

The plan, which is likely to take five years to complete, will mean new life for the historic buildings and a big dose of nostalgia for generations who remember taking in a show downtown before the palatial structures were shuttered in 1972.

“The nostalgia is there,” Ganim said, when asked if the idea is viable in 21st-century Bridgeport. “There is a certain grandeur that would attract people — maybe more than the show itself.”

City officials toured the boarded-up buildings Monday, using cell phone flashlights to see their way through the dusty, darkened space. Hints of the theaters’ earlier beauty still abound — from chandeliers to the former organ’s pipes to the grand marble staircase railings to the mezzanine.

When they opened in November 1922, the sumptuous Majestic and Poli, also called the Palace, played host to crooner Eddie Cantor in the musical revue “Make It Snappy,” according to the Bridgeport Public Library.

By the 1930s, both theaters showed films, often around the clock so workers could see movies after their factory shifts.

City officials declined to name the new developer, which has a track record of rehabbing historic theaters, Ganim said. While the firm was chosen Friday, full details of the plans are not complete, said Tom Gill, director of the Office of Planning & Economic Development.

Gill said the overall plan calls for a 130,000-square-foot hotel at the former Poli, which will likely retain its historic entrance.

The Majestic will be renovated into a 2,200-seat theater, which would like offer both films and live shows, Ganim said.

The apartment buildings on city-owned land across the street will offer views of both the Pequonnock River and the restored theaters, Gill said.

City leaders and developers have debated the theaters’ future for years, some supporting demolition.

Ganim said he believes the $250,000 the city put into roof repairs during his first administration in the 1990s has kept them viable.

“Without that, this conversation wouldn’t be possible,” he said.

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